Opinion: Time to Break the Stigma of Mental Health

Within the last few years, a new kind of issue has developed across college campuses and the workforce. Students have been expressing concerns about mental health, a condition that has been increasing dialogues across campuses. “Mental health is super important and you need to take care of yourself” said Alyssa Hogancamp, a 2018 graduate of Marist College.

Marist College’s Health and Wellness Center

According to a study conducted by Penn State as reported by Boston University “more than half of the students visiting campus health clinics listed anxiety as a concern… The same survey found that 21.9 percent of students said that within the last 12 months, anxiety had affected their academic performance”. The statement is proven true when out of nine college-aged individuals interviewed, eight of them expressed mental health issues varying in degrees of severity from general anxiety to more severe disorders.

Something of concern for students is the lack of understanding of mental health for faculty and staff of their college. Students express concerns that members of the staff may not necessarily know how to handle situations of mental health. Heather MacNeil, a senior at Lynchburg College, stated “I don’t think the faculty or staff is necessarily trained all that well for mental health at my school. I think some are better at handling a situation than others just naturally”.

One major factor that influences an individual’s mental health is the era of social media. Social media has been known to have a perceived image through editing pictures in order to generate more likes or bigger popularity. Katie Kilcullen, a senior of Marist College explained “It’s just a huge comparison issue for me and I will see everyone’s “perfect” life and wonder why I am not like that”. Other students have seen its positive value. Caroline Edwards, a senior at Bridgewater College explained “These platforms have also enabled me to find ways to manage my anxiety, such as links to mediation podcasts, or daily affirmation posts”.

Students also expressed there is a stigma regarding mental health on campuses. One freshman explained “With unfair and inaccurate stereotypes, and shaming, it has made it so hard to spread awareness and educate people about the truth on mental health”. Others expressed that it was the reason they did not seek help in the first place. Theresa Carcaldi, a senior, explained “I don’t think it’s necessarily that Marist students hold a stigma, just society in general. People tend to umbrella all mental health conditions, when there are so many that are so real to people.”

With all of these factors, it is still important that people break the stigma of mental health. With numbers of students with mental health rising, it becomes very important to create an open dialogue between campus members, their peers and those in the outside community post graduation. Whether that is through a simple check in with someone that is know to have mental health issues to helping them get the help they need. To many, someone’s mental health is important to them and it is the importance of making sure they are ok that brings a form of happiness. One student explained “I didn’t have anybody to teach me that it was okay to have a disability and that I was not alone, so I want to make sure other people know they’re never alone”

To those reading this with a mental health issue, remember you are not alone. Help is available and an important tool on the road to recovery. At the end of the day, always remember that it is ok to not be ok.

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