The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Stigmas around mental illness need to stop, creates suffering

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

“Just be happy,” “Don’t worry so much,” “Crazy,” “Psycho,” — These are all statements and labels that are commonly thought of and used against people with mental illnesses.

Many people may imagine the mentally ill locked away in psychiatric wards when the topic of mental health comes up, but in reality one in five adults in the United States are diagnosed with some type of mental illness.

Mental health stigmatization has gone on for too long and it is really harmful to those with a diagnosed mental illnesses, especially college students who may not realize how common it is among their peers.

Because of the negative stigma around mental illness, most people who suffer from it don’t seem to talk about it. Three-quarters of all chronic mental illnesses begin presenting themselves in individuals by the age of 24. With so many young adults suffering, it is astonishing how many are unaware that many of their peers also deal with the same problems. They shouldn’t have to feel alone.

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As someone who has suffered with depression and anxiety throughout my life, I know how isolating mental illnesses can make you feel and the stigma doesn’t help. I remember when I was younger and just beginning to have problems with my mental health, I felt ashamed to have these conditions and kept my feelings to myself. I was scared and didn’t want others to find out that I was dealing with this for fear of being outcasted or thought of as crazy.

My experience is, unfortunately, not uncommon. In fact, the American College Health Association’s Spring 2015 assessment said that two-thirds of students struggling with a mental illness don’t seek any treatment. The lack of treatment allows mental illnesses to get worse and may even lead to something as drastic as suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.

Dealing with mental illness on top of having no outlet to discuss and heal from it can really take a toll on students. With symptoms that include a lack of energy, panic attacks, trouble concentrating and much more, it’s easy to see how mental illness can have such a negative impact on college students’ academic performance. In fact, a survey done by the National Alliance on Mental Illness showed that 64 percent of respondents said they dropped out of college due to a mental health related reason.

The conversation around mental health needs to include the entire spectrum, not just common illnesses like anxiety and depression. There are dozens of other mental illnesses that people need to learn more about. This includes bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and many others.

Even eating disorders, an incredibly common condition amongst college students, are classified as mental illnesses. These mental illnesses are not talked about as much, so people often misunderstand them or misuse terminology associated with them. Calling your iPhone bipolar for wigging out is adding to the harmful stigma that real individuals suffering from the disease deal with every day. This kind of language has to stop.

The only way the stigma can be broken is by openly talking about mental health. Talking about mental health can be terrifying for those who struggle with it, but once you start talking to your friends or others who deal with the same struggles as you, it becomes a little bit easier.

If you suffer with any kind of mental illness, know that your struggles are valid. You are not “crazy,” and you can get better. Most importantly, you are not alone.

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