How local students are working to change perceptions on mental illness

OKLAHOMA CITY - Students at Oklahoma Christian University are on a mission this month to change perceptions of mental illness.

"It really important that we can talk about it and train each other, and I think it also just encourages a lot of positivity,” said Kaitlin Allen, a student at Oklahoma Christian University.

Campaign to Change Direction is a national initiative started in 2013 after the Sandy Hook tragedy.

The goal of the campaign is to open up the conversation about mental health in America.

"Being from a small town in Oklahoma, you don't talk about mental illness, or it's something that's whispered about. You don't go put it on social media or anything like that,” said Jackson Higginbottom.

Higginbottom has a parent who suffers from alcoholism.

He didn't realize the effects of being near someone with the disease until he went to college.

"In high school, it was very easy for me to do well, but going into college and having extra stressors, and I'm in the honors course here, so more rigorous material," he said.

He started experiencing some of the signs of mental illness his freshman year.

"I started having concentration issues and things that I always had. It just wasn't evident, and so I was diagnosed with ADHD," he said.

It wasn't until later he got diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

This month, students at Oklahoma Christian are taking the pledge to learn the five signs of mental illness.

They are:

  • Personality Change
  • Agitation
  • Withdrawal
  • Poor Self Care
  • Hopelessness

Students hope the campaign will start the conversation and help others notice if someone around them might be suffering from a disorder.

"Look for it in yourself, and look for it in people that are close to you, and hopefully together we can collectively all talk about it more openly and feeling comfortable getting the help that we need if we are suffering from these five signs of emotional pain,” Allen said.