Former student encourages students to open up about mental health issues

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Clare McPherson

An Appalachian State University alumna and Miss Statesville winner visited campus Saturday night to talk with students about mental health through her campaign, Change The Story.

Katie Knowles’ campaign aims to destigmatize mental health issues. Knowles shared her personal struggles with anxiety and depression with a group of 150 women during her visit at the Appalachian Panhellenic Hall.

Knowles said when she was 9 years old, she started having panic attacks, but didn’t know at the time what it was. Like with most people, Knowles’ anxiety eventually led to depression. Her mom recognized that she was struggling and sought help.

“[Family intervention] turned my path to where I’m standing now,” Knowles said.

Knowles was inspired to start the campaign after her father passed away in June. He struggled with anxiety and depression while not knowing how to fix his problems, which led to a dependency on alcohol and eventually his death.

For Knowles, continuing to talk openly about mental illness is a key part of solving the problem.

“If you share, other people will be more comfortable talking about is,” Knowles said. “Be an ally for people who are dealing with mental health issues.”

Knowles encouraged students to seek help if they were struggling with mental illness, and reminded them they aren’t alone.

“You know when something doesn’t feel right,” Knowles said. “Go get help. This is my story, but there are so many other stories that are just like mine.”

Katy Huis, junior elementary education major and vice president of Panhellenic Association, said Knowles was upset with all the recent deaths on Appalachian’s campus and wanted to help in some way.

“[Knowles] wants to come to Appalachian to share her story,” Huis said. “She wants to get a conversation going.”

Several people approached Knowles after the talk, giving her hugs and speaking with her.

Knowles reminded students that issues with mental health don’t need to end badly.

“I’m an example of a changed story,” Knowles said. “It doesn’t have to end in death.”

Story: Clare McPherson, Intern News Reporter