Are social anxiety, depression, and suicide considered taboo for university students? Why should mental health be encouraged?

When I was a rookie student straight out of high school, starting my first year of college, I thought of the endless possibilities that lay ahead of me: independence, freedom! But like any other student who thought the same, college's reality came as a bucket of cold-water splashed on the face. At first, everything is smooth sailing, but as time progresses, there are certain things that you never thought would happen to the people around you, including yourself. 

 

In college, you are open to many opportunities and exposed to many situations where you must make hard decisions for your future achievements. Some of these decisions could include walking away from certain friends, changing majors, or acquiring a student loan. But what most students won't talk about is their mental health at the moment of making such crucial decisions. Even in the 21st century, topics like anxiety, depression, and panic attacks are restricted, despite many of us living in constant stress and worry. 

 

We disguise anxiety with stress, depression with mood swings, and mental breakdowns as having a bad day. How would anyone know that anxiety leads to depression, and mental breakdowns are a way for your body to tell you something is wrong? Most of us can't because schools lack education and the help we need in universities are hidden from direct sight. 

 

Without us knowing, we have created a society that views mental health as forbidden. Even talking to friends about it isn’t always very comforting. Let's be honest; some people don't want to deal with others' problems and choose to live in ignorance. Even our professors sometimes make the mistake of ignoring our cry for help. The reason is simple: not everyone knows how to help. Why? Because it's taboo.

 

To gain more insight, I have interviewed 86 college students who voluntarily expressed their experiences anonymously for those who feel the same way and don't know what to do. 

Poll results:

Have you experienced or have any of the following mental health problems?

Results of poll, created by team writer Original photo by Melarie Acosta

"Besides talking about it, I find it important to take action. This is a serious problem, and I can't imagine for this to be normalized while students suffer" - Age 19, UPRM student

Is mental health considered taboo amongst university students? Do you feel like it's something not talked about openly?  

Results of poll, colorized Original photo by Melarie Acosta

 

"I feel that students see mental health as something that everyone should handle alone and that's where tragedy strikes because it's ok to ask for help. We as a generation that's supposed to be very advanced should come to terms with it and help each other to normalize mental health conversations" - C.A.A.I, age 19, UPRM student

 

Should conversations in mental health be encouraged? Should universities and schools teach about mental health?

Poll results, colorized Original photo by Melarie Acosta

 

"It is important for people to understand that not everyone's the same. For people to know that it's ok not to be ok" - Age 18, UPRM student

 

Final thoughts 

 

For those who don’t believe they have a voice, I hope this article can be the tool you need to overcome your fears and seek the necessary help. Always remember, you are not alone. Many of us have passed through this, and we have overcome it. I believe that you can too. 

 

If you want to seek help from our campus here are the official directories:

 

DEPARTAMENTO DE CONSEJERÍA Y SERVICIOS PSICOLÓGICOS

OFICINA: 5to piso Centro de Estudiantes (CE-501) TELÉFONO: 787-832-4040 ext.2040, 3372

OFICINA DE CALIDAD DE VIDA

OFICINA: Edif. Decanato de Estudiantes TELÉFONO: (787) 832-4040 ext. 5467

 

"You can have a bachelor's degree, a master's degree or even a doctorate, but if your mental health is crumbling, you have nothing. Being mentally healthy is important to having a fulfilling life in every aspect" -Age 20, UPRM student