Campus Views on Mental Health

Mental health — it’s something that seems to make headlines fairly frequently, for one reason or another, yet is never talked about enough. The stigma surrounding mental health makes it a hard subject to confront, even when trying to utilize easy methods of support. Luckily, there are good friendships and trusted individuals that students can utilize, but not every student is privileged to have these outlets. This is why I think that mental health needs more exposure on our campus, through programming and honest conversation.

Through a random survey of students, I collected some data on the climate on mental health on Virginia Tech’s campus. This survey affirmed some of my current musings and reiterated one main thing: Mental health needs a voice on this campus.

I started off my data collection with asking: “Has mental health personally impacted you?” One-hundred percent of the responses indicated yes. This goes to show how prevalent of an issue mental health is — in general, and specifically, on our campus. Personal struggles, as well as family members and friends with problems affect individuals every day in the worldview of mental health.

When asked, “Is mental health talked about enough on Virginia Tech's campus?”, on a scale from one to seven (with one being definitely not, and seven being definitely), over 50 percent of respondents replied on the lower scale.

Along these lines, when asked, “Is there stigma regarding mental health on Virginia Tech’s campus?”, a majority of respondents marked their answers on the higher end of the scale, meaning that this definitely exists. Stigma can take many forms. This could be playing up a mental illness as something that makes someone with anxiety less qualified for a job, or maybe even outcasting someone socially because of their depression.

Despite some of these pressing issues of mental health, there is some hope. One-hundred percent of the people that talked with me and responded to my survey were aware of resources on campus for when they or someone they care about is struggling. Sources cited include: Cook Counseling Center, the Women’s Center, campus organizations such as Active Minds, Student Advocacy and the Psychological Services Center. These and many other resources are awesome because they can connect and provide many outlets for the various parts of mental health. Sometimes a person may need immediate emergency assistance, and sometimes someone may just want to help others in need; both are welcome with the variety of resources on campus.

When asked, “Have you witnessed any positive changes on campus in relation to mental health during your time at Virginia Tech?”, seventy-one point four percent of respondents said yes. This is another positive statistic that I found, because people have been noticing a difference in the campus view on mental health. With 28.6 percent saying no, we still have work to do as a campus so that the students who attend Virginia Tech will feel safer about speaking up for mental health.

I wanted to also take the chance to get an overview on how students on our campus feel, so I asked for comments and experiences on the general level. Here are some noteworthy, anonymous quotes:

  • “Cook needs to be expanded greatly and the suicide rate is ignored and not addressed enough. With an increase in students, we need an increase in resources.”

  • “Serious mental health issues are something most students avoid talking about; in general specific students have access to resources if they may need them, but if they talk about their issues they may be seen in a negative light by their peers even if this is not consciously recognized.”

  • “It is not talked about no where (sic) near enough. The limitations and concerns about Cook Counseling Center aren't known unless you're forced to deal with them. They don't have enough counselors and they don't have a good reputation and that's Tech's fault as a whole for not putting more money into making them an effective service for students in need. There needs to be options for long term counseling and more information on their services being put out there, like the fact that they will take calls 24 hours a day if you are in an emergency situation and there are counselors who can come to you if you need them to in an emergency.”

  • “There are also many instances of people minimizing the seriousness of mental health by trivializing disorders such as OCD, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, etc. While I don't necessarily think Tech's climate towards mental health is any worse than other campuses, it still has a long way to go.”

Based on these responses, it is clear that more could be done on campus to increase the awareness of mental health. Through time, more funding, and specific programming, I am hopeful that the attitudes on campus will shift and that we can have a more open conversation regarding this topic. Everyone is human, and I think it’s important to remember that.

“Everyone has a chapter they don’t read out loud.” — Unknown

If you or someone you know may be struggling, please take note of the resources available on campus:

  • Cook Counseling Center

    • McComas Hall, RM 240, Virginia Tech 895 Washington Street SW Blacksburg, VA 24061 540-231-6557 Fax: 540-231-2104

  • The Women’s Center

    • 206 Washington Street SW

                 Blacksburg, VA 24061

                 540-231-7806                

                 Fax: 540-231-6767

  • Schiffert Health Center

    • 895 Washington Street, SW Virginia Tech, McComas Hall (0140) Blacksburg, VA 24061 540-231-6444 Fax: 540-231-7473 or 540-231-6900

  • Hokie Wellness

    • 195 McComas Hall (0140) 895 Washington Street Blacksburg VA 24061

                 540-231-2233

  • Local Emergency Resources:

    • ACCESS — Emergency services clinicians are available to meet with you at your location. A friend or family member can call for you if you feel that you are unable to do so yourself. Call 540-961-8400.

    • CONNECT — A 24-hour referral and emergency evaluation service of Carillion Health Care. Call 1-800-284-8898 or 540-731-7385.

    • RESPOND — A mental health admittance and referral service of Montgomery Regional Hospital and Lewis Gale Hospital. Call 540-953-5324.

    • Virginia Tech Police — 911 if on campus or 540-231-6411

    • Blacksburg Police — 911 if off campus in Blacksburg or 540-961-1150

Image Sources: 1/2/3