BENNINGTON — Miss Vermont represents the state. But she also represents anyone who has ever struggled with their mental health.
That’s a message she will take today to Mount Anthony Union Middle School, speaking with students about her journey.
Alexina Federhen, 24, is not shy about her battle with mental illness. It’s a battle she’s been in almost her entire life de ella, and now a story she shares with anyone who will listen.
She wants everyone with a mental illness to know they are not alone.
Her experience with mental health
When she was younger, Federhen’s mother noticed the warning signs of mental illness and took her to a pediatrician.
“I don’t think I’d be here where I am without her. I mean, figuratively and literally, because she also struggled with depression, ”she said of her mother de ella. “She was able to see some of the beginning signs that I was going through [depression]and got me help, which I’m so grateful for.”
Federhen first got medicated after the trip to her pediatrician; she also started seeing a therapist. But she was afraid of any stigma from being on medication.
“That’s admitting that there’s something wrong with me,” she said. She has struggled with self harm and admitted she had a “constant pit of anxiety.”
After some time, she was no longer ashamed of her struggle.
“It boils down to science,” she said. “Mental health is a chemical imbalance in your brain. That’s not your fault.”
It wasn’t an immediate fix; it took time and work. She said it took years to “untrain” herself to feel her emotions from her and not bottle them up inside. Her mental health journey is just that — a journey.
“It’s never ending,” she said.
She still goes to therapy and encourages everyone to go because of all the benefits. She says talking to someone who is “not in your immediate circle” can be extremely helpful and “eye opening.”
Her platform as Miss Vermont
As part of her Miss Vermont platform, Federhen wants to spread awareness of mental health and end the stigma surrounding it.
“One in three young Vermonters suffer from anxiety and depression,” she said. That’s important information for students to remember when they are sitting in their classrooms.
She students wants across the state to know that “even though it feels like you’re alone, even though it may feel like no one else could possibly understand what you’re going through, there are so many other people who struggle — who are struggling in very similar ways.”
Even students who are not struggling with mental illness should still be aware of the mental health crisis.
“Sometimes smiling at a stranger, opening a door, can make someone’s day and make someone realize that they’re really important,” Federhen said.
For those who need help, reaching out to mental health resources can be the first step to feeling better.
“There are so many wonderful resources, especially in Vermont.” she said.
Federhen recommends texting “Vermont” to 741741. It’ll direct you to someone on call 24/7. She said that in addition to getting help for yourself, you can also tell them that you’re worried about a friend or someone else who is close to you.
“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness,” she said, it’s a sign of strength. No one can do everything on their own and “anyone who says they can is a liar.” She’s proud of anyone who reaches out and asks for help because it’s so hard to do.
Miss Vt. at MAUMS
To hear Federhen talk about her mental health journey, attend Community Dialogue Night in the MAUMS cafeteria Thursday, May 12, from 5 to 6 pm The event is presented by the Alliance for Community Transformations, MAUMS and the Youth Leadership Group.