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Stigma and Mental Health Care Among College Students

Stigma and Mental Health Care Among College Students

By Talia Floyd
Senior News Writer

Mental health is one of the most important and dismissed elements of leading a healthy lifestyle. However a persistent myth that serious mental health crises, including suicide, come without warning.

A myth that is propagated by a combination of sources including media. However this myth stems from the inability to identify warning signs rather than the lack of warning signs altogether. The ability to recognize warning signs both for yourself and for others becomes ever mo,re pressing in the transition from childhood to adulthood. A stage in it’s own right, adolescence.

Adolescence is not just a cultural belief but a physical reality. Adolescents is a flexible category usually beginning and ending somewhere between 8 and 24 according to The Teen Years Explained, a publication by Clea McNeely, and Jayne Blanchard  of Johns Hopkins University. This may be closer to home (berea College) than some people may think.

Most people are familiar with the most obvious physical changes (they’re difficult to ignore) but puberty is not limited to deepening voices and body hair. Young adults are also developing mentally.
The risk taking behaviors, exploration and sometimes foolish decision making of teens and young adults has a lot to do with the physical changes that are happening in the brain.

Emotional highs and lows are common in young adults but can be indicative of more serious challenges. Depression, anxiety and drug abuse according to the JHU publication are the most common mental health disorders among adolescents.

McNeely and Blanchard write that “It is estimated that at some point before age 20, one in 10 young people experiences a serious emotional disturbance that disrupts their ability to function at home, in school, or in the community”. Unfortunately there isn’t much room for a prolonged or serious gaps in a student’s ability to function.

A survey respondent from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) report College Students Speak: A Survey Report on Mental Health explained “A depressive episode made it impossible for me to go to classes and I did not get help until it was too late and I was withdrawn.”Just a few weeks of missed classes can derail a student’s academic career.

Nevertheless for some students those unforeseen bouts of illness are just as unavoidable as a case of bronchitis.
According to the NAMI report 50% of students surveyed did not disclose their mental illness to their college, the top reason being a fear of stigma from their peers, faculty and staff. When it comes to protecting health outside of mental health care a few extremely effective built in systems come to mind. Every bathroom on campus has a sink and there is absolutely no stigma for washing ones hands.

If anything the stigma is for those who do not.
Many students aren’t even aware of how to take care of their mental health on a daily basis much less what tools exist to help them maintain that health. Certainly people can go to counseling when they notice a problem but the overwhelming amount of students trying to receive help can dissuade students who may end up waiting 2 or more weeks to be seen.


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