Let’s talk about it: Ending the Stigma

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As everyone and their mother knows, finals week is an extremely stressful time for college students everywhere. If you’re suffering from mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, this time can be especially hard. As many as 1 in 4 college students are suffering from anxiety and depression. Besides a wide range of multiple stressors college students face, college students are especially vulnerable because of our age. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, most symptoms of mental illnesses manifest before the age of 22; which is the prime college-age range. Despite this alarmingly large number, statistics show that over 40% of college students experiencing mental health symptoms, do not seek help. The point is, mental health is a serious and under-addressed issue across college campuses.

Yesterday, was Utica College’s De-Stress Fest 2015 which was sponsored by Utica College’s Student Activities and Student Wellness Center. This is an annual event that is meant to decrease student’s anxiety and stress before finals. There were opportunities to listen to music, make your own stress ball, play with Play -Doh, make your own aromatherapy, and several other activities. Other than a fun event, it is a great opportunity to promote mental health awareness and Utica College’s counseling center on campus.

It also inspired me to write this blog. I have suffered from anxiety and depression most of my life. Throughout the years I have experienced on and off treatment with medications and counseling. I have seen psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychologists, and counselors. I have had my ups and downs with these diseases throughout my life, and especially throughout my college career here at UC.

Despite having UC’s counseling center available to me all four years of college, it is something I have just recently started taking advantage of my senior year. I have been through a lot of recent trauma and decided that stuffing it down was no longer helping me cope with it anymore. I decided to make an appointment with UC’s counseling center and have been receiving therapy for the past couple of months.

Many people, and especially college students in my opinion, believe they have to suffer in silence from mental illnesses. There is a serious stigma and lack of sympathy for them that has been expressed throughout our society over the years. Many are afraid to seek help in fear that they will be looked upon as “crazy”. There is a lot stressed on being “happy” in this day and age. I think forced happiness is especially stressed during the holiday season in the media, which can exacerbate depression even further. It’s understandable, with this attitude, that many can feel bad about speaking out about any feelings that don’t express happiness. But it’s time to start talking. It’s time to start stressing in our society that mental illness can be just as devastating and life-threatening as physical diseases. Just because one cannot see it with the naked eye, does not mean it doesn’t exist.

While I’m proud of myself for finally taking advantage of UC’s counseling services, I wonder if I could have enhanced my college experience even further by seeking help sooner. It is my hope that talking about my own personal experience with mental illness, will let other UC college students know that they are not alone. Many are fighting similar battles and there should be no shame in talking about these battles.

Mental illness is a growing health problem that should be taken seriously. Utica College has many resources to help students cope with these illnesses, and no student should be afraid to take full advantage of them. Utica College has three dedicated counselors willing to help. They are trained to treat and address; alcohol and substance abuse, anger management, anxiety disorders, ADD/ADHD, body image and weight loss, breaking up, career guidance/job related stress, date rape/sexual assault, depression, eating disorders, and many other problems.

If you or a friend you know, is struggling with any of these or other psychiatric concerns, I encourage you to make an appointment with UC’s counseling center. You can do this by calling (315) 792-3427, Email counseling@utica.edu, or stopping by the health center and scheduling an appointment. Let’s break the silence and end the stigma of mental illnesses.

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