October 10th was World Mental Health Day, a reminder to people everywhere that mental health is just as important as physical health. World Mental Health Day encourages people to share their experiences with mental illness and break the stigma that surrounds having and receiving treatment for one. CNU also recently lost two Captains over our fall break, one of them to suicide. Talking with friends, family, professors, and peers about mental health can help break the stigma that follows both living with a mental illness and receiving treatment for one.
According to the National Association on Mental Illness, or NAMI, one in five adults have a mental illness, and one in 25 adults have a mental illness that interferes or limits their major life activities. More specifically, Caldron State University’s research found that one in four students between the ages of 18-24 have a mental illness. Even though there is a high percentage of students suffering with a mental illness, only 25% of students were diagnosed or were treated for a mental illness in the past year; 40% of students with mental illnesses do not seek any kind of help for their mental illness, and when asked why, the research revealed that stigma was the number one reason. They also found that 73% of students living with a mental illness have experienced a “mental health crisis” while on campus, and about 34% reported that their college or university did not know about their crisis.
While suicide is listed as the tenth leading cause of death nationally, NAMI states it as the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15-24. Caldron State University states that suicide is the third leading cause of death on college campuses. They also found that 31% of college students experience depression and that students had difficultly functioning because of it; 50% of college students experienced “overwhelming anxiety” that made it hard to succeed academically. College Stats reports that anorexia is the third most common chronic illness in teens and young adults, and 95% of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12-25.
What You Can Do
Since one of the main reasons that students don’t seek out help for their mental illnesses is because of high stigma, starting conversation about mental illness and health is a great way to break the stigma. World Mental Health Day was great with starting conversation online, so bring that example onto your campus by inviting people to share their stories and experiences living and recovering from mental illnesses. If you have experienced a mental illness yourself, also consider speaking about what it has been like for you. Speaking out can help break those stereotypes and misconceptions about mental illness, which account for a lot of the stigma that exists.
Another way to help break stigma is through education. Not only can you further understand more in depth about mental illness and health, but you can also teach others who are misinformed. Take the chance to learn about the resources your school or area has to offer to students with mental illnesses, or look up the signs of suicide so that you can look out for friends and peers. If your school has a branch of NAMI or another mental health organization, attending their meetings is another great way to learn more about mental illness, as well as interact with other people who also wish to learn about and advocate for mental health.
Stress that students face can lead and heighten mental illnesses. However, speaking out more about mental illness and treatment can help break the stigma surrounding it, encouraging more students to reach out and receiving treatment.
If you or a friend want assistance now, call the suicide hotline, which is open 24/7, at 1-800-273-8255.