'Rally for Reality' hopes to erase stigmas about mental health through open dialogue

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UT students sign in to attend Rally for Reality this Tuesday at the SAC Auditorium. The event was hosted by the Student Government Mental Health Agency and allowed students to share their mental health experiences. 

Photo Credit: Brittany Mendez | Daily Texan Staff

Munching on cookies and sipping sweet tea, the crowd murmured in anticipation as Mitchell Keo, the night’s first speaker, confidently took the mic. Armed with anecdotes from his own life, Keo captivated the audience and spoke about his recurrent battle with depression.

“It’s surprising to me how, for six years of my life, I felt the need to die and never once thought to talk to anyone about it,” said Mitchell Keo, a cell and molecular
biology senior.

Student Government’s Mental Health Agency hosted its inaugural event in the Student Activity Center auditorium Tuesday evening, an open mic called “Rally for Reality,” where students gathered freely to share their stories of dealing with mental illness. Keo said he felt the weight of depression early on, but did not fully understand it
until college.

“I never thought I’d be the one to admit that I had depression,” Keo said. “It never occurred to me that other peers felt that way as well, so I never thought that I could reach out to anybody and talk about it. I finally sought therapy in junior year.” 

Kyler Wesp, one of the founders of the Mental Health Agency and organizers of “Rally for Reality,” said the goal of the event was to normalize mental illness.

“(At Rally for Reality), we want everyone to be able to feel like they have a platform and a voice,” psychology freshman Wesp said in an email. “The more we facilitate healthy, progressive conversation around mental health, the less stigma is attached to the idea.”

Keo was one of nine speakers who shared their stories. Their levels of comfort regarding the topic varied; many said it was their first time addressing their mental illness in public, while others said they had opened up about it before.

Reese Brinkley, a human development and family sciences sophomore, took to the stage to read one of his journal entries about ADHD from fall 2016. 

“I used to think of my mental illness as a pothole, a sort of road hazard that I needed to work around to get where I needed to go,” Brinkley said. “But it’s not like that. It’s more like having to drive through a toll booth, and the machine is taking forever … Then I’m stuck thinking about what I can do to fix it, to make the whole process go more smoothly, and there’s really barely anything I can do.”