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This week, China bravely spoke out about her personal Mount Everest: mental health. She encouraged us to look out for each other and support anyone who is struggling.
Before I begin, I would like to explain to Year 7 - and anyone new - about our prefect initiative, ‘Fear-less’. A prefect initiative is a project or idea that we, the prefects, come up with. It’s basically our mission or focus for the year to inspire other students. Fear-less is all about facing your fears, big or small, and celebrating the diversity of all the fearless girls at Wenona. You’ll hear lots of speeches about what Fear-less means to different girls, and we hope you will all gain something from this initiative.
But now, onto what I want to talk about: Mount Everest. Not the actual mountain. I know nothing about it, so that would be weird. But I would like to talk about conquering my own personal ‘Mount Everest’. Everyone has their mountain, their struggle or their goal. Some people like to share about their Mount Everest. Telling people about their ‘snowshoes’ and all the new things they are seeing as they ‘climb’ their mountain. Some people like keeping their mountains private. Quietly achieving their goals and making their way up the mountain. It doesn’t matter how you treat your personal Everest; the main thing is that everyone has one!
You may be thinking about what your own Mount Everest is. Well, it isn’t always what you think it is. It isn’t school, marks or making a sport team, but instead it’s something personal to you. It could be something to do with family, friends or another aspect of your life, but it’s a struggle or mountain that you face.
If you know anything about Mount Everest, you’ll know it isn’t easy to climb. It takes months, maybe even years to get to the summit. And once you do, there’s a new mountain, even harder than the last, waiting for you to climb. Mount Everest is rocky. There are millions of things you can’t control. An avalanche could suddenly hit. Something entirely unexpected could happen that sends you back down the mountain.
What I’m trying to say is when I look around the room, I see a lot of people who probably have their own personal Mount Everest that they are trying to climb. Maybe nobody else knows about it. There’s a layer of complexity in each of us, another story that even the people closest to us don’t know about. A secret, a battle we are fighting, or an event we are trying to deal with.
But today, what I want to talk about is a mountain that a quarter of young people face. Mental illness. It’s a mountain, that I personally - and a lot of people around me - face every day. No one can face Mount Everest alone. Even if your Mount Everest is different to mine, it’s still a mountain. And I think we can all agree that climbing mountains is hard. I used to think that I could climb Mount Everest without any help at all, which, if I’m being honest, went disastrously. It took time away from School last year for me to finally - for the first time in my life - get the help and support I needed and to understand one of the lessons I’m now trying to live by: isolation is never the answer!
So, to anyone who is struggling with mental health - which is statistically and from personal experience, a significant amount of us - you are not alone! No matter how hard it is, if you are truly struggling please reach out - even if it’s just calling a helpline like Lifeline or in emergencies 000 - because everyone deserves help and recovery. You matter. And if no one has told you that today, you matter to me! Your life does matter.
I can hardly stand up here and say I am 100% better, but at least I can say for the first time in my life, I am trying my very hardest to be. Just standing here, speaking to you, coming back to School and most importantly, choosing life is a huge victory for me, and something weeks ago I thought was impossible. I know that recovery and climbing my personal Mount Everest will be hard. I’m standing in front of you at the beginning of what will be a pretty long journey. But all we can ever do is try. Just keep trying, putting one foot in front of the other, and eventually you will start climbing.
The thing about Mount Everest is, it can never be climbed in a day. Taking small steps is key and allowing yourself to sit at basecamp is necessary to deal with our personal battles at a time in our lives when we are dealing with immense stress. We all face a mountain sometimes in our lives, whether it be now or in the future. So, how about instead of tearing each other down, we try to support one another as best we can.
Because we aren’t so different. We all face a mountain and everyone could use a helping hand in their climb. You might be at the top of your mountain or just starting your journey, but everyone has their own battle. And I think in part, why sometimes we feel so isolated in our struggles is that while everyone has a story and their own Mount Everest, we don’t typically talk about it. The stigma surrounding mental illness is still a huge issue. By talking about it, we can take steps to fix it. It should never be shameful to receive help for mental health. We would never feel afraid to talk about having a broken leg, so why is it that we are so apprehensive to talk about depression or anxiety? Going to therapy or reaching out shouldn’t be shameful, it should be celebrated! Remember that climbing a mountain would be impossible without help! It’s impossible that things will suddenly be better after this speech. I’m just one person, I can’t fix this issue. But I only hope that over the coming weeks, months and years, you think about mental health. Or at least take care of yourself. Or if you see a friend or a loved one struggling, take the leap and support them.
So start the conversation! And remember, even if you can’t see it now, you have a whole world of other people around you climbing their own mountain, both in this room and everywhere you go. So be Fear-less or just be a little less afraid. Climb to the summit or just take another step. We are all walking and climbing beside you, even if you can’t see it right now.
Happy Term 1 everyone and have a great day!