Carroll University community seeks to reduce mental health stigmas
WAUKESHA, Wis.—Carroll students say Carroll University should advocate against mental health stigmas.
Seventy-five percent of mental health conditions begin by age 24 and one in four college-age adults have a diagnosable mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Considering that about 25 percent of college-age people have a mental illness, it is not surprising that stigmas towards mental illnesses would be heightened on college campuses. Carroll students, however, want to make sure that their community does not have heightened stigmas.
“If I had one, I wouldn’t want someone to say, ‘Oh, you’re so OCD,’” says Elizabeth Mogensen, 21, a junior at Carroll. “It’s not their fault, so why should they suffer from people putting all those stereotypes on them. It just sucks.”
Despite the desire to increase mental health awareness on campus, many wonder how well Carroll does in the eyes of those affected by stigmas.
When asked how well she thought Carroll fostered a community safe from mental health stigmas, therapist Lynne Guinther, from the Carroll University Walter Young Center, said Carroll does an okay job, but could always be on the lookout for more ways to reduce stigmas. Students gave similar responses.
“Carroll does as good of a job as the wider world does, I suppose,” said Austin Harris, 20, a Carroll sophomore. “Considering the difficulty of the task, they do a good job.”
To help ease some of the stigmas associated with mental illnesses, Carroll runs events to raise awareness and tolerance. One event, mentioned by Guinther, took place in September. The event, called In Our Own Voice brought NAMI to Carroll to talk to students about mental health awareness.
But the biggest problem with stigmas is that many people are embarrassed or ashamed to seek medical treatment because they worry about how others will react or treat them. College students fall into the same bracket. According to NAMI, 50 percent of college students with mental illnesses do not tell their college about their illness and do not use accommodations.
“I don’t think they really want to promote that they have a mental illness,” says Mogensen.
Because students do not seek help, they are more likely to drop out of school, and Carroll is not alone in this. Colleges all over the country face the same problem. Elizabeth Kalmanek, 21, a junior at the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana, weighed in saying her college has just as much concern about students utilizing counseling services as does Carroll.
“I think those who have been diagnosed with mental illness prior to starting college are more likely to use the services, but otherwise I believe many students struggle through college undiagnosed and untreated,” said Kalmanek. “Either that or they drop out or fail out at some point.”
Statistics fall in line with what students say. According to NAMI, 64 percent of young people who left college did so because of mental health related reasons.
So, what can students and community members do to help their peers?
Guinther says the first step is to help people see that a mental illness is an actual medical condition. Next comes inclusion and tolerance, which is easy for some people like Carroll sophomore, Deanna Josten, 20.
“I would do my best to make them feel right at home for who they are,” Josten says. “I think that will make the world a better place, and it’s the right thing to do.”
Above all, awareness is the key to reducing stigmas in any area of life, and this rings true for reducing mental health stigmas.
“Much of what we build our lives off of functions by stigmatizing ‘the mentally ill,’ and keeping them ‘in their place’ so to speak,” says Harris. “I would absolutely champion greater understanding of mental illness, which could then abate such stigmas.”
As college becomes an option for more and more students, mental health resources are going to be in higher demand. Carroll and colleges nationwide need to focus on expanding mental health services and offering support to their communities.
Simple walk-in student health centers and short-term personal counseling may not be enough moving forward. Students may need access to crisis hotlines, ongoing counseling services, screening services, referrals to off-campus services, and resources to reduce stigmas.
“Without adequate treatment, young adults experiencing a mental health issue are more likely to receive lower GPAs, drop out of college or be unemployed than their peers who do not have a mental health challenge,” according to NAMI.
Ultimately, it’s up to students and professionals to work together towards mental health awareness, the more stigmas are lessened, the more students will seek help.
Keywords: college, mental health, stigma, awareness, education, psyche
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