Student organization aims to ‘Stomp Out’ mental health stigma
Published: Monday, October 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 23:10
The university’s mental health awareness week took place this past week with the goal of informing students about the dangers and prevalence of mental health problems on campus. The week included a variety of events hosted by the university organization Active Minds, Paige Miller, co-president of the organization, said.
“We held ‘Stomp Out Stigma’ on National Day Without Stigma where students could trace their feet on a banner to literally stomp out stigma,” Miller said. “We also try to bring at least two motivational speakers a year to campus.”
In addition to “Stomp Out Stigma” on Oct. 7, Active Minds hosted an organization meeting on Tuesday, a showing of the popular movie “Silver Linings Playbook” on Wednesday and depression screenings on Thursday.
Active Minds is a national organization that returned to the university’s campus last year and is dedicated to erasing the stigma associated with mental illnesses, Miller said. The organization aims to “change the conversation about mental health” because when people talk or think about things like depression or bipolar disorder, they are afraid of them or judge them, Miller said.
“We, as members of Active Minds, want to encourage everyone to talk about these illnesses in a more positive light so that they can act as a resource for anyone that needs help,” Miller said. “College campuses are actually one of the top places where mental health issues occur. Mental illnesses are especially prevalent among our age group. The problem is that they don’t seek help because of the stigma associated with their disorders.”
Miller said the organization is still new at the university, but it is a very important addition to the campus because approximately 1,100 college students commit suicide every year, according to the Active Minds website.
Charles Beale, director of the Center for Counseling and Student Development, said he agrees with the importance of services to help students with issues such as mental illness. He said college students suffer from the same issues as the general population—especially depression and anxiety—but the college environment can trigger those issues more.
Beale said some of these issues can be attributed to students leaving home for the first time, developing autonomy and independence, and being in a position of independent decision making for the first time in their lives. These issues, according to Beale, are specific to the college population.
“We have seen generalized anxiety or panic attacks as well as depression on the rise among the students at the university,” Beale said. “Some students come in with lots of other concerns—relationship concerns, dealing with issues from home, etc. and need help.”
Bethany Hall-Long, nursing professor at the university and state senator of Delaware (D-Middletown), said the college environment is conducive to anxiety due to the transitions students are experiencing as well as the new deadlines and pressures they face. The Delaware Help Line, which is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, can be reached by dialing 211, Hall-Long said.
The university also offers on-campus mental health support through the Center for Counseling and Student Development. The center has been in existence for 67 years and offers a variety of services including group and individual counseling.
“Students at UD are fortunate to have a counseling center that is very well-established and supported by administration,” Beale said. “We provide to our students top-quality services equal to what any student could get at any college in the country.”
Beale said the center currently has 14 psychologists including himself, 2 psychiatrists, 4 advanced level post-doctorate fellows and 4 pre-doctoral graduate interns in their last year of training. Miller said the counseling center is a great resource for help and information, which are both key to stopping the stigma against mental illness.
However, Beale said there is no single solution to the problem of depression and mental illness on college campuses. He said solutions vary for different students, and students have many options. The center offers one-on-one or group therapy, and if necessary, a student will be referred to a psychiatrist for the necessary medication.
Although there is a sizable number of students who Beale believes may not seek counseling, he said he wants them to know that it is okay to ask for help.
“We all need help at some point,” Beale said. “It’s normal. You don’t have to handle it all on your own. We can help you through the process.”