The stigma around mental illness has long been one of negativity and shame. No one wants to be perceived as crazy or anxious. Because of this, many people refuse to go and get help they so desperately need. One Miss America contestant is hoping to change that.
Madeline Collins, who is currently serving as Miss West Virginia hopes to use her platform to destigmatize and bring awareness to mental illness.
Collins, a Princeton West Virginia native and graduated Mountaineer, finished in May of 2017 summa cum laude with a degree in Child Development and Family Studies and a minor in Public Relations. She is currently pursuing her masters at Columbia University.
“My goals as Miss West Virginia are to bring awareness to my campaign and really destigmatize mental illness,” said Collins. Her other goals include getting rid of misconceptions about mental illness and to bring more awareness to the Miss West Virginia and Miss America scholarship program.
Collins started the “Think About It” campaign, which challenges people to rethink the way they look at mental illness. Collins said that 1 out of every 5 people suffer from mental illness and less than half of those seek help. Those statistics are what motivated her to create her the movement.
Collins noted how college students are more stressed than ever before. According to National Alliance of Mental Illness, 75% of all mental health conditions begin by age 24. Sadly, many of these conditions go undiagnosed. Collins’ Think About It campaign has gained depth by aligning with the National Association for Mental Illness.
Think About It also includes Mental Health First Aid trainings that Collins coordinated with the National Council for Mental Health. It is training that serves to give people the skills to be aware of and help someone who may have a mental health problem or is developing one.
Trainings like the one Collins has created are important because we tend to only take care of the ailments we can see. Sometimes mental health gets ignored because it is not as recognizable as a broken leg. The idea of First Aid for our mental health might be foreign to some, but throughout her time as Miss West Virginia Collins will work to will break through the preconceived notions that stigmatize mental illness while also developing necessary mental health awareness in our culture.