Understanding Mental Health

default article imageA healthy life and body is something everybody tries to maintain. When we get a cold, we take medicine and might even see a doctor, but when people struggle with their mental health there is adverse stigma that can be detrimental to taking the first steps to get help or continue to receive help.

“Mental illness is disrespected and mistreated by those who are uneducated, unaffected, and apathetic,” one editor said.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) notes that 75 percent of all mental health conditions begin by age 24. College students, on average, graduate from a four year college before the age of 24.

Therefore, the time spent in an undergraduate program can be crucial in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. However, the stigma around mental health can obstruct some from admitting to needing help.

One editor noted an overall lack of knowledge about mental health. The stigma is revealed when  the illness hinders on common social expectations.

“Many mental illnesses affect people just as physical illnesses do, in the way that it affects their ability to accomplish everyday tasks, except those with mental illness are often treated poorly or without proper consideration in response to this, generally because it is a reoccurring issue due to unseen symptoms,” an editor said.

Based on the latest Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors survey of counseling center directors from the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is the highest mental health issue for college students, next is depression, and relationship problems.

Many editors identified that being assumed “crazy” can be a factor that keeps people from wanting help. “Society has made a lot of progress toward accepting it, however, there is still a lot to be done. Words get thrown around, calling people mentally ill ‘crazy,’ ‘psycho,’ and so on. There is a lack of empathy and understanding overall.”

A few editors concluded that the negative stigma surrounding mental health has decreased in more recent years, but that it still remains especially as an “individual” stigma. “For some, their parents may not believe in therapy of mental health issues,” one editor said.

Continuously, an editor said, “I think a lot of people often either dismiss serious issues like depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as nothing but usual emotions; or people seriously underestimate the severity of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and addiction.” The editors believed that those who suffer from such illnesses are afraid to speak up about them.

One editor said the media negatively affects the perception of mental health and that the focus is usually on a tragedy involving a mentally ill person, such as recent mass shootings.

Comparatively, an editor said, “I think it’s good that the media is encouraging people to talk about it but I also feel like, to an extent, the media also romanticizes it which is not good.”

Another editor discussed the varying forms of mental illnesses portrayed on screen, “I feel that the media is becoming more accurate in its representation, such as the show Shameless represents two different experiences of bipolar disorder, with and without treatment.”

The editor continued, “However, movies such as Split incite fear in neurologically sound people about those with diseases such as schizophrenia.”

To decimate the stigma surrounding mental health, one editor believed it could be addressed more appropriately if it were categorized as a healthcare issue. “To think that mental health and physical/bodily health are separate and distinct is a big mistake. In particular, things like drug addiction/alcoholism are huge issues that are stigmatized, leading to not treated them properly.”

Some editors revealed their own experiences with mental illnesses. The internet seemed to be a common tool in identifying and broadening their understanding of the topic.

An editor said, “As an athlete who struggles with mental health I have found the most help online, reading articles about other athletes who are going through the same thing.”

“After being diagnosed with PSTD, major depression, and anxiety, I was originally ashamed and felt weak; years later, I understood that accepting and understanding these pieces of me was one of my greatest strengths,” said another editor.

Many editors, who do not have mental illnesses themselves, learned the most through reading about the topics online, listening to friends who have first-hand experience, or took a psychology course which deeply expands on the various mental health issues that could arise.

However, one editor said, “Even though our campus is small, I feel that people still face a stigma in terms of acknowledging a mental health issue and seeking help. We need to keep normalizing mental illness and making sure people are getting the help that they want and need.” The stigma around mental illness will continue if the issues are not addressed.

Some courses explored topics of depression and suicide and “these subjects from a critical stance exploring psychology, philosophy, and even anatomy to better understand these particular mental ailments.” Other editors noticed their creative writing and psychology courses divulge in open discussions about mental health.

An editor revealed that mental health was only discussed when a tragedy or death occurred within the Monmouth community. One editor said they “literally” never discussed mental health in class.

Likewise, another editor said help for possible mental health decline was, only brought up when classmates or professors had passed away. However, another editor feels the campus services are “not adequate.”

Monmouth University offers Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS). The CPS program is free to all enrolled college students. Their confidential services include individual psychotherapy, group counseling, crisis and prevention initiatives, and 24-Hour emergency resources. CPS allows you to make an appointment by calling 732-571-7517, emailing mucounseling@monmouth.edu, or visiting the office on the 3rd floor of the Stafford Student Center.

One editor said, “Your health is a culmination of a lot of factors, and many of them are not physical. It’s important to understand that how we think and feel affects every aspect of our life—mental illness often adversely affects you physically as well, so it’s important to seek out help or be a resource if you have the chance.”