Students using medication fight to conquer associated stigma

Eliza Orlando | The Chronicle
Shravani Page | Managing Editor
Abby Waechter | Managing Editor

Illustration by Allison Droege and Eliza Orlando

For years, medication has been a pitfall for divide.

Pain and cold medications such as Ibuprofen and Allegra are widely accepted by the public, but anything outside of that realm is buried in debate and polarization. From ADHD pills to antidepressants, dependence on medication can potentially be associated with the negative stereotypes that come with mental illness.

Guidance counselor Megan Pay classifies dependency as an “inability to function without something.” In her eyes, however, medication does not fall under that umbrella. Rather, Pay considers medication to be a “useful tool” that can be used alongside other resources to put oneself in a “good and healthy mind space.”

Other methods of recovery, including therapy and coping mechanisms, come into play for Pay as she believes a combination of these resources is what truly maximizes someone’s recovery.

“I think that medication is great to help manage the physical aspects,” Pay said. “It’s important to work through, and come to terms with whatever it is that’s causing us stress and anxiety.”

Senior Kaya Rossey has experienced a long and difficult journey finding the routine that worked for her. Through this journey, Rossey discovered a variety of coping mechanisms in addition to therapy and medication which helped her become her best self.

“I’ve put a lot of time and effort into [coping mechanisms],” Rossey said. “Medication is just the assistance that comes along with it. Mental health is a huge part of my life, and I’m continuing to learn about my own mental health and how I can support myself and self-soothe.”

Finding the right medication is difficult, and the first prescription is often not the best fit. Junior Benny Farbstein initially felt a strong resistance to medication. He felt like it would turn him into someone different. Farbstein said that, when he started medication in fifth grade, the side effects of his first prescription made him feel uncomfortable, and it ended up not being the best option for him.

“When I first started my medication, I purposely skipped them a lot,” Farbstein said. “I felt like they were changing my personality.”

But once Farbstein found the medication that worked for him, he found his trust in the medication process was increasing to a point where he could feel a difference in his attitude, mindset, and mood almost immediately.

“A lot of times I can tell when my meds have run off,” Farbstein said. “I have more trouble focusing or staying calm, and I don’t really have too many side effects from my meds anymore but later in the day I can always tell when they’re running low.”

Although Farbstein and Rossey are on medication for separate reasons, both still face stigma from society. They have learned, however, to come to terms with it as they believe that they are on their medications for the betterment of themselves. Rossey said that medication is something that makes her whole and allows her to be who she truly is.

“It’s something I can use to better myself and be 100% who I am,” Rossey said. “It’s difficult when people think that you aren’t who you actually are.”

Going forward, Rossey strives to make her message of being kind and giving people grace known, regardless of their medical status. She said that coming to terms with the medication makes a person strong.

“If you’re on medication, it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Rossey said “What you need is valid. We need to work on ending the stigma around medication. You’re not lesser of a person. If anything, I think it adds to your strength.”