Hakeem Rahim shares his struggle with mental illness

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Motivational speaker Hakeem Rahim describes his struggle with bipolar disorder. He addressed the freshman class about mental illness in the auditorium on Feb. 10. Rahim thinks it is important to educate adolescents on mental illnesses as it played such a huge role in his life.

Tori Finkle and Jesse Moskowitz, Staff Writers

Mental illnesses severely affect approximately 20 percent of teenagers in America. On Feb. 10, youth mental health speaker Hakeem Rahim spoke about his experiences with mental illness to the freshman class.

“His story was touching. It helped me realize what a mental illness can really do to someone,” said freshman Allie Chase.

Mr. Rahim was brought to Schreiber by junior Bart Fuchs and Health teacher Ms. Pat Kosiba. Two years ago, Fuchs and Ms. Kosiba attended Mr. Rahim’s presentation at Jericho High School and knew they wanted to bring him here. They spoke with him after his presentation and eventually made plans for him to visit.

Mr. Rahim was valedictorian of his high school class and went on to study at Harvard University. When he was nineteen years old, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Bipolar disorder is an illness that causes severe shifts in mood and energy levels, making it difficult to carrying out daily activities. These mood shifts are different from normal ups and downs; they are severe.  In certain cases, a person with bipolar disorder may have hallucinations or hear voices.

Mr. Rahim has experienced these symptoms and spoke about the process he went through to discover he had bipolar disorder.

“When I was feeling down, I would sleep for eighteen hours at a time, yet when I was feeling up, I would stay awake most of the night and write poetry,” said Mr. Rahim.  “At this point, I felt like I was literally bouncing off the walls.”

One night, Rahim went out with his friends and began to feel claustrophobic. This discomfort and claustrophobia were Mr. Rahim’s first signs of a panic attack, a symptom of bipolar disorder. Within that week, Mr. Rahim’s symptoms intensified.  He began to see people that were not there and often became overly excited over simple things.  His friends were concerned about his behavior.  They continued to question his actions, concerned about the state of his health.

A week or two later Mr. Rahim reached an ultimate low point in his developing depression.  His concerned roommate called his parents and asked them to address the issue.  Rahim’s parents took him back home and immediately admitted him to the hospital.  There  he was tested for a multitude of mental illnesses.  The test results revealed that Mr. Rahim had bipolar depression.  All throughout the first month of Mr. Rahim’s college experience, he had been suffering the high points and low points of his bipolar disorder.

When Mr. Rahim was diagnosed, he decided to take the year off from school to focus on his illness. It was a difficult situation to overcome and Mr. Rahim took the issue seriously. He was jumping off the walls, yet also felt cold and trapped.  Rahim was treated at the hospital and prescribed medication to control his symptoms.

For many years, Mr. Rahim’s story was private while he focused on getting through his difficulties.

“The biggest challenge I faced getting to where I am now was openly acknowledging my mental illness,” said Mr. Rahim.

He eventually went back to school to get a master’s degree in psychology and a degree in motivational speaking.  His experience inspired him to speak out and educate others about his disorder.

His journey  inspired him to devote his life to speaking about mental illness, hoping to make a difference.  In order to do so, he began to speak to young adults, informing them on the severity of mental illnesses. Mr. Rahim felt it was important that people of all ages are educated about these disorders.

“It was amazing how much he suffered for a period of time without knowing what he was suffering from. I was so touched that he was able to tell his story to people around the country,” said freshman Stevie Weingard.

There are over two hundred mental illnesses that millions of Americans alone suffer from.  Fortunately, there are medications to help prevent many of their symptoms from interfering with one’s life.

“Mr. Rahim’s message was effective in not only showing the ninth grade class how dangerous mental illnesses can be to one’s life, but also giving us hope that people suffering from such illnesses do have a future despite their disability,” said freshman Drew Reiter.