It's World Mental Health Day. I've been thinking about what I've wanted to write on this blog post for weeks now and yet I've found myself sitting here, staring at my empty computer screen for hours. I’m determined to help grow the conversation around the importance of mental health; but I've found myself paralyzed with no words. Then I realized that my problem with writing this post is the same problem we are having surrounding the conversation about mental health. I've been struggling to find something profound to say because our mental health is not something we talk about every day. But why not? For example, when it comes to how I'm feeling physically, I regularly tell my family members and friends that I have a migraine, I'm suffering from a cold or I'm tired, but it's not easy to open up and say that I'm feeling anxious, alone or that I just cried for two 2 hours in my car because I'm overwhelmed and stressed.Talking about our mental health should be just as commonplace as talking about our physical health.
What I've found after years of holding my emotions inside and not taking care of my mental health, is that it can wreak havoc on your physical health. The two go hand in hand and we must take care of ourselves both physically and mentally.
As the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars, Founder of Her Universe and author of It's Your Universe, You Have The Power To Make It Happen, I just spent my entire summer traveling the nation meeting thousands of fans. I was inspired by the number of fans that quietly and fearfully opened up to me and shared their own struggles with bullying, anxiety, depression, autism and eating disorders, among many other issues that are usually not discussed. I struggled with my own experience of cyber-bullying and I consider myself extremely blessed that I was surrounded by an incredible support system, because I now understand why so many others feel like they are worthless, unloved and have no hope.
While on a book tour, I had the privilege to do a signing at Nationwide Children's Hospital. During my visit, I learned sobering statistics about mental health: 1 in 5 children have a significantly impairing mental disorder; yet only half of these children receive treatment. Fifty percent of mental illness is present by age 14 and, sadly, suicide is now the second leading cause of death among youth aged 15 – 24. In 2016, 6,159 children and youth ages 10-24 died by suicide and the numbers continue to grow.
Today, I pledge to be an advocate for mental health. I am not a medical professional and by no means am I an expert, but I plan to educate myself and find ways to help. For now, I am just a voice that is no longer willing to stay silent, and a voice to that's here say that if you are struggling, you are not alone and that there is hope. We have a stigma to break.
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Ashley Eckstein is an actress, author and entrepreneur. Most known as the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, Ashley is also the Founder of Her Universe - the groundbreaking fangirl fashion company and lifestyle brand.
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