PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A local high school student is passionate about helping not only those who share his mental health condition — but everyone who needs a little comfort.
Ryan Bernstein is a senior at Wilson High School in Southwest Portland. Though he knew his whole life that he was a bit different, it wasn’t until his freshman year that his OCD behaviors really manifested.
OCD stands for “obsessive-compulsive disorder.” It’s a condition that often involves constantly repeating an action or thought and it affects 2 to 3 percent of the population.
Bernstein said one thing he struggled with was writing.
“I had to get all of my writing exactly the correct way and if I didn’t, I would think something bad would happen it popped in my head and I would do it. That was the compulsive bit,” he said.
After Bernstein was officially diagnosed with OCD, he started learning techniques to help him cope. He then decided he wanted to help others going through the same thing.
One way he does that is by playing music, like his ukulele, during lunch on Mondays to put people at ease.
“I hear people say they’re really anxious and I try my best to help them out and tell them it’s okay, that Wilson’s a safe and inclusive community.”
But the 18-year-old isn’t just focused on his fellow Wilson High peers. With the help of the International OCD Foundation and others, he compiled stories from around the country of different people’s experiences with the condition.
“I don’t know their faces, I don’t know their names, but I feel like I know them based on the stories that they’ve given,” said Bernstein.
He put all of those stories together and published a book called “OCD to Me, An Anthology of Anxieties.” The book’s proceeds go toward the International OCD Foundation. Bernstein hopes the book raises awareness and comforts those who have OCD.
Bernstein also leads a group chat every week called “Hand in Hand.” It’s a support group for students experiencing any kind of anxiety issue.
“I’ve learned everyone has stuff that they’re going through and it’s perfectly okay to be different,” he said.