World Mental Health Day, organized by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), is this Thursday. This year, the WFMH made suicide prevention the main theme of awareness and is using the phrase “40 seconds of action,” which refers to the fact that every 40 seconds someone dies at the cause of suicide.
According to Active Minds, a nonprofit organization that promotes young adult mental health advocacy, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. This fact, among others, highlights how students who may be struggling with mental health issues need open support and understanding.
People will toss around phrases like “I want to kill myself” or “everything is just so hard right now.” For college students with full, stressful schedules, this may seem trivial. However, in reality, phrases like these shouldn’t just be thrown around. In some cases, this type of language could be used by someone who may need help but is too afraid to ask directly.
Data from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) shows that 30 percent of college students experience stress that is negatively affecting their academic performance, and 85 percent feel overwhelmed by everything at one point.
In order for there to be a change in the current statistics, there needs to be a change on college campuses in which individuals are educated and informed on these issues.
Many universities have organizations on campus to educate students, faculty, and staff about mental health. For example, Alma College, Marquette University and Auburn University have all taken initiative to set up Active Minds chapters on campus.
Active Minds chapters are student-led organizations that advocate for mental health and work at breaking the stigma surrounding mental health issues, aiming to make the topic open for discussion and free of judgment. Students plan events like panel discussions, speakers and stress relieving activities such as informing and leading students in meditation, in order to raise awareness for mental health issues. Having a similar kind of support at Albion could allow students to feel more comfortable in discussing mental health issues.
At Albion, some students are working to break the stigma around mental health by planning programs with speakers and panels to inform and raise students’ awareness. With the help of some student organizations, the college hosts events that help raise awareness for different mental health issues. These events usually take place during times when they are somewhat expected, including orientation, finals week and nationally recognized days. However, such events should be taking place throughout the entire year.
Albion also offers counseling services to students, but not all students completely understand how counseling could aid them. It does nothing for students to just know that they can go to the white house in front of Wesley Hall if they happen to need it. If students don’t know that counseling services is not only for those with mental illnesses but also for anyone that needs assistance in dealing with the stress college can bring up, then they won’t know that they could benefit from these services. Educating students about what counseling services provides could get students who need this resource to actually use it.
Mentally healthy students are the best students. Helping students understand what could be affecting their mental health and providing them with appropriate resources could make their lives more manageable.
Change has to start within each of us. We cannot rely on others to make a change, unless we too are doing something about it. As part of a college community, we have to help and look out not only for ourselves but for one another.
As we move past World Mental Health Day, let’s stay aware of any signs or symptoms in others and ourselves that could indicate a decline in our mental health.