Spencer Walz began struggling with anxiety back in grade school.
Now 25, he speaks from hard-won experience when he talks about helping young people struggling with mental health issues, and how best to help them overcome fears that talking about it will cause additional problems.
Listen above to hear what Walz’s early experience with anxiety was like, and how talking to his parents, friends, doctors and school leaders built a successful support system. You’ll also hear how anxiety and depression reared their heads again in college, and what helped get him through it.
Walz said advocacy has been a “huge” part of his recovery.
Walz tells young people who feel like anxiety or depression is getting the best of them right now:
“First and foremost, it’s okay. That’s got to be my first message, that it’s okay to be feeling how you’re feeling. I think a lot of times whatever the illness is, it can get you swarmed up and make you feel like it’s completely not okay. But I think having that attitude of acceptance, and gratitude even, is so important in terms of tackling what you’ve got to do to put yourself first and feel better a little bit. And I think, on top of that, I’ve always tried to reinforce how much talking and just letting people in has been therapeutic for me… secrets definitely make you sick and I think that’s something that I’ve really accepted. Again, it’s so important to talk if you can and find at least one person that can be that rock for you.”
Listen above for Walz’s advice to parents of children going through these hardships now. Walz is a volunteer with NAMI Michigan, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Minding Michigan is Stateside’s ongoing series that examines mental health issues in our state.