Mental health has been a long-overlooked topic in American society, and the stigma surrounding mental health issues and their treatment options is still present. With college students being some of the most affected by depression and anxiety, it is especially important to have resources on campus to aid in destigmatizing these disorders and treating them effectively.
Studies show that 1 in 4 college students have a diagnosable mental illness, and most life-long cases of mental health issues begin by age 24. This means that thousands of students on college campuses around the country need access to care, whether that be counseling or medication. The more resources available to treat mental illness on campus, the better the chance of students utilizing them and growing to see that mental health issues are not something to be ashamed of.
Mississippi ranks second in the nation on prevalence of mental health issues, with resources provided ranking in the bottom half of the country. The University of Mississippi has made strides to change this, with each the Counseling Center, Psychological Services Center and the Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment providing access to mental health professionals, group or individual therapy and crisis intervention. Several of these services, however, come at a cost, which can deter students from going to counseling. Whether it be lower economic standpoints or familial views on treating mental health issues, students may be wary to pay or use insurance for counseling purposes.
Some of the highest-ranking collegiate mental health programs have instituted things like wellness coaching for those with high stress or relationship concerns, financial and nutrition coaching, mobile counseling and meditation workshops. Prioritizing mental health on campus means devoting more resources to programs like these to ensure students have as many opportunities to succeed at UM as possible. College counselors across the country have said that mental illness has become an increasing concern in the past several years, with academic anxiety, depression and relationship issues being at the forefront of student problems.
With the high workload expected of students added with the social stresses of day-to-day life, it is no wonder why students are left feeling stressed and overwhelmed. The University of Mississippi must implement a comprehensive plan to make mental health a more universally understood and discussed issue for students and faculty alike. If half the focus put on COVID-19 this past year was put onto mental health, real change could be made on this campus.
Putting more money into the programs already available on the Ole Miss campus would allow them to expand their reach on campus, not just in the services they offer but in the knowledge they are able to provide to the community. If more students recognized the signs of mental health issues and how prevalent they are among young people, mental health could be seen as a branch of general fitness rather than an obscure problem on campus. The more students are offered help, the more likely they are to take it.
In its mission statement, Ole Miss states they strive for excellence in healthcare along with learning. Focusing more resources toward mental health and wellness can only push the university closer to achieving this mission and becoming a more well-rounded community for its students.
Briley Rakow is a sophomore majoring in integrated marketing and communications from Lemont, Illinois.