Mental Health on Campus: Are We Well?

Elizabeth Field

Have you been waking up on the wrong side of the bed lately, or are you showing signs of chronic depression? Are you a stressed out over upcoming finals, or are you experiencing symptoms of anxiety? Would anyone here be able to identify signs of bipolar disorder if they or one of their friends was suffering through it? What about ADHD? Post Traumatic Stress-Disorder?

The ignorance on campus surrounding mental illness needs to end NOW. In the last two weeks 20% of UNH students have reported feeling depressed and nationally, nearly half of college students report feeling so depressed at some point that they have difficulty functioning. We cannot stand by while some of the best and brightest of our generation lose hope and give into despair. We must do more. It starts by talking about mental health.

Having a mental disease or disorder isn’t embarrassing. It isn’t a bad patch of acne or a bad haircut. It also isn’t temporary. About one in four adults live with a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year, and the prevalence of serious psychological disorder is higher in “college years” (18-24) than all other age groups. So why aren’t we talking about it?

That question may be best answered by observing the stigma surrounding mental health. The lack of knowledge held by the general public about mental diseases and suicide may be the reason those suffering do not seek help.

On Monday, Send Silence Packing, an award-winning public education display visited UNH, strewing 1,100 backpacks across the Bixler/Botwinik quad. These backpacks represent the 1,100 college students who commit suicide annually. By displaying backpacks with a personal story donated by loved ones, Send Silence Packing and Active Minds put a “face” to suicide and carried the message that preventing suicide is not just about lowering numbers, but also saving the lives of loved ones.

College is supposed to be the best years of our lives, but how can we sit by while our friends, brothers, sisters, and peers suffer silently? Open the dialogue. Make it okay to talk about mental illness. While you might not have a mental illness, every person on campus and across the nation has mental health. Stigma is a major reason that students do not seek the help they need-the very same help that could save their lives.

We all have a responsibility to end the stigma surrounding mental illness on campus. Stop the silence, start talking, and start saving lives.