When people think of mental illness, the one word that usually comes to mind is “crazy.” In reality, this word is an extreme that creates a negative connotation to something that is more common than people think. This negative connotation can also scare people from seeking help.
Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions that affect mood, thinking and behavior. Some mental illnesses includes depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but it can also refer to everyday stress and anxiety.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 25 percent of 18 to 24 year olds have a diagnosable mental illness. However, even beyond that, all students experience some amount of stress and anxiety because of their academic workload.
In short, mental illness is common–especially among students. Mental health is just as important to maintain as physical health. Nowadays, having a bit of stress can be seen as the equivalent to contracting the common cold.
Maria Brown, senior biology and chemistry major, said, “People who are [not diagnosed with a mental illness] and are going through a rough patch … probably don’t think it’s as serious … Maybe it is serious and they don’t think it’s that serious because maybe that’s their normal.”
However, NAMI states that 40 percent of those students with a diagnosable condition did not seek help, and 57 percent did not request accommodations from their school. In comparison, a report in science daily reveals that 90.6 percent of college students are insured for and receive health care.
If mental illness is so common and treatable, why are more people not seeking out help? This is because of the stigma mentioned earlier.
According to NAMI, the leading online resource regarding mental health, there are a few reasons why people don’t seek mental health treatment.
Stigma seems to be a predominant deterrent against seeking help. Many people feel embarrassment or anxiety at the idea of others finding out they went to counseling or need help. They also feel ashamed at having any symptoms of mental illness that society has deemed taboo.
Also, most people don’t know what state of mind is worthy of a visit to a therapist, and they feel as though therapy is foreign territory.
Time and energy are also a big factor, especially to college students who have to manage classes, jobs and extracurriculars. Social concerns are also a contributor.
Therapy in general is very expensive, and most people don’t have the money to go to sessions.
Sometimes, people are told by loved ones when they are experiencing any sort of mental distress that they are only “going through a phase.” Friends and family members, while they have good intentions, are capable of convincing a person that they can deal with things on their own–which is not always healthy.
“Reasons that I’ve heard folks voice a lot of times is either students haven’t been exposed to the idea of mental health or their families wouldn’t be supportive of mental health treatment,” said Dr. Jodi K. Caldwell, executive director of the Counseling Center. “For a lot of cultures, especially with our international students, the idea of mental health treatment is kind of a foreign, or taboo … idea that’s not something culturally that would really be acceptable, so they’re not as comfortable accessing these services.”
NAMI encourages people to seek help, as it provides many benefits as well as prevention. Therapy, or just seeing a therapist, can help you identify healthy habits to maintain self-care. It is good to do this as soon as possible to both speed up recovery and prevent mental illness from developing into a more serious problem. This is important, especially for young adults, as most serious mental illnesses develop in a person’s early twenties.
Fortunately for Georgia Southern students, the university offers a variety of services to its students, all free of charge. Students can set an appointment with licensed professional counselors and psychologists by calling or stopping by the Counseling Center. The center also holds group therapy sessions as well as online workshops.
For those who don’t want to seek help for mental illness, Dr. Caldwell has suggested that students do their best to care for their mental state before it becomes unmanageable and acquaint themselves with the resources available to them on campus. The Academic Success Center, for example, can help with scheduling and time management, creating a less stressful college experience. She also suggests forming a support system and joining extracurriculars on campus, which increases feelings of success and the likelihood of graduation.
Additionally, it is recommended that students find stress-relievers and remove themselves from stressful situations. Exercise and spending time outdoors are good ways to relax both the mind and body. Even avoiding social media can be a good way to avoid situations that can cause unhappiness.