End the stigma of mental illness

Graphic by Megan Wade

Jessica Wade

College campuses across the nation have become the focus points and stomping grounds for some of the country’s most heated issues. There have been protests for free speech, riots against far-right speakers and more recently, a march on UNO’s campus to show support for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). College students are comfortable with discourse, an important factor in discovering their own voices. However, there’s one issue relevant to students that is hardly talked about, the commonality and stigma of mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 75 percent of mental health problems begin before the age of 24. The side effect of that percentage can be seen in another statistic, according to the American College Health Association, suicide is now the second most common cause of death among college students.

The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging that one exists. College students should understand this better than any other demographic. Good or bad, students do draw attention to issues about which they feel passion. The UNO organization Active Minds is determined to bring this problem to the top of the list of things, proving that students care enough to do something about it.

“Active Minds strives to bring awareness to the UNO campus,” Active Minds President Kathleen Stibbs said. “I think that a lot of people don’t know just how many people suffer, so as an organization, we try to bring awareness to this, which can hopefully help end the stigma against mental disorders.”

The stigma surrounding mental illness is by no means contained to college campuses. The United States shares a societal outlook that views mental illness with a lack of empathy and education. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 1 in 5 American adults will experience a mental health disorder annually, but only 25 percent of people with a mental illness feel that others are understanding or sympathetic about their illness.

“Mental health is just as important as physical health,” Stibbs said. “You wouldn’t keep quiet about a brain tumor, so why should you if you’re feeling depressed? People won’t tell you to just get over a broken hand, so why should you when it comes to anxiety? A sickness is a sickness, whether you can see it or not.”

Stibbs suggests that students reach out to the UNO Counseling Department if they need assistance or hope to become more educated on mental health issues.

“The UNO Counseling Department is a great start if someone is in need,” Stibbs said. “Many people keep quiet about their problems, which can lead to them never being treated. If anyone ever feels like they need to talk to someone, even if it’s just because they are stressed out or are feeling down, then they can always reach out to the counseling department.”