The mental health crisis in America is one of the most discussed and debated topics in the modern media, with activists consistently working toward creating an unbiased, destigmatized perception of what mental health is and how it can best be protected. With September being Suicide Prevention Month, there is no better time to discuss the stigma around mental health treatment. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students in the United States, and it is an issue that often goes unaddressed.
While depression and other mental health issues are not entirely preventable, they are treatable if people have access to the right resources. Studies have shown that 75% of people who attend some form of psychotherapy show improvement by the end of treatment.
The question then becomes: Why isn’t everyone who struggles with mental health issues in therapy? The unfortunate truth is that the social perception of mental healthcare carries a stigma strong enough to discourage people from seeking help. About 80% of people struggling with mental health issues do not seek professional help. Some of the most common fears people list about going to therapy are not about the effectiveness of treatment, but about how others will perceive them, both in their personal and professional lives.
The University of Mississippi does have services in place to help students easily access mental healthcare. The counseling center offers free appointments to all students and has an after-hours helpline for emergencies.
While this and the resources available through their website are great steps toward providing a safer space for students, they are useless if people do not feel comfortable enough to go. Fear and shame are incredibly powerful emotions, and until people are made to feel safe in asking for help, the mental health crisis will only worsen.
On a personal level, I have dealt with anxiety and depression since I was young. I have been fortunate enough to have access to therapy and medication and to have people in my life who support my mental health journey. I can personally attest to the efficacy of therapy and how life-changing it can be to have someone to help you navigate your emotions and find the best coping mechanisms in times of crisis.
No matter how strong you think you are, dealing with mental health issues alone is not the answer. The greatest strength we have when it comes to getting through the hardest times is our ability to communicate and lean on others for support. The more people who share their stories and experiences with mental health issues and treatment, the greater chance we have of destigmatizing asking for help.
If you are fortunate enough to not deal with significant mental health issues, take the time to do your research and talk to the people in your life who do — I promise you know more people who struggle with these things than you think.
Ignorance is not an excuse in an era in which reaching people and their stories is easier than ever. Ending the stigma around mental health treatment starts with each and every individual, and if we all put in the effort to understand the people around us a bit better, we can be better equipped to be there for each other.
Suicide is not an isolated decision: It is the culmination of months and years of feeling alone and not knowing how to get help. If we want to push suicide down the list of leading causes of death, it starts with giving people compassion and the piece of mind that if they are not okay, we will stand by them while they work toward a better state of mind.
Liv Briley is a senior integrated marketing communications major from Lemont, Ill.