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Courage and Vulnerability: Lady Vol swimmer shares mental health journey

Senior Kaitlin Harty is sharing her struggle with her own mental health to inspire others.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Lady Vol swimming and diving senior Kaitlin Harty's favorite quote comes from a friendly neighbor in a red sweater - Mister Rogers. 

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” 

"It basically sums up what I believe, the more that you talk about something and the more you get into depth about the things, the more you understand what's happening," Harty said.

There's a lot happening for the senior. Originally from Massachusetts, Harty started swimming at Texas before transferring to Tennessee. 

"You know, I really liked the brighter color orange which was like the main reason why I transferred," she joked.

Harty's journey goes far beyond miles traveled and switching shades of orange. She was diagnosed with clinical depression and a mild generalized anxiety disorder her freshman year of college.

"Feeling helpless and feeling unwanted and unloved," Harty said.

It took a toll on her, almost more physically than emotionally. A weight she carried every day.

"I would have random spurts of an anxiety attack, where my heart would beat really really fast, my hands would be really clammy and I felt like I was being suffocated, like walls were basically caving in on me."

Troubled waters, underneath a calm surface.

"They were very dark, there was definitely a very lengthy period of my life where I just felt very isolated and ostracized," Harty said.

But Harty's story is one of growth. Through a combination of therapy and medication, she's found peace.

"The more vulnerable that you do make yourself, the more courageous you're going to be, because you don't get better just by sitting back and being silent."

The silence truly ended for Harty in May, which just so happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month. After a recommendation from her therapist, Director of Mental Health and Wellness at UT Kristen Martin, Harty decided to take part in a series of videos from the Tennessee Athletics Department with one centralized theme: You are not alone.

RELATED | Vols quarterback Brian Maurer shares struggle with depression

"The most important thing is to realize there are so many other people going through these situations," Harty said. "The second you do start to speak about it, you'll realize how many other people are right there with you and are going to fight that battle along your side." 

A reminder of what a man in a red sweater once said, with an addition from a woman in an orange swim cap.

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable..." ---- "Anything that is manageable should be talked about."

If you or a loved one are struggling with your own mental health, there are always resources available to you. The National Institute of Mental Health has many option available. You can find them by clicking here.