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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

OPINION: Break down the stigma around seeking mental health care

Our college students are experiencing a mental health crisis and they aren’t seeking the help they need.

In an constantly stress-filled environment, our peers are under a constant strain to maintain a healthy lifestyle, keep up with school work, be gainfully employed, check in with family and friends and somehow at the end of it all, pack in eight hours of sleep. The weight is heavy and the toll isn’t always registered on the surface.

It’s easy to see how it all can become too much for many people, and it’s happening across the U.S.   

The statistics in a 2014 American College Health Association survey paint an uneasy picture: 33 percent of college-aged students had experienced depression in the past 12 months, 87 percent reported feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities and 8 percent had seriously contemplated suicide.

Worse than all of this, however, is the disturbing stigma that surrounds accepting treatment for mental health. In the public sphere, depictions of those suffering from mental health issues range from being incompetent to unpredictable to dangerous, and these stereotypes have been debilitating to our culture.

This leads to discrimination against these people, and in turn, to stigma. We have come to a point where diseases or disorders of the mind are seen as embarrassing weaknesses, and often times rather than seeking help, many disregard or hide their issues. Here, we have failed as a culture. Here, we must remedy these beliefs.

The question, of course, is why this happens. Is it our ideal of rugged individualism? The call to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and get over it? The answer is that no person should have to go it alone. Just as any other sick organ sometimes requires professional medical help, so does the brain.

More than ever before, there is a substantial and pressing need to unshackle ourselves from the stigma of seeking help for mental health services. We need to bring up our peers, realize that every life is deserving of stability and often times the answer is a simple visit to a counselor.

On Western’s own campus, there exists multiple options for those who are having issues in life, including the Counseling Center, Student Health Center and BRAVE, a suicide prevention program. Even if you don’t personally require their facilities, fostering a supportive community surrounding mental health can make the difference in other’s lives.

Remember: we’re not only here to fill our brains, but to keep them happy as well.

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