Mental illness experts hope to end stigmas

By Marc Thomas

mthomas@kykernel.com

Click Here for the arti­cle in Ken­tucky Ker­nel or you can con­tin­ue to read the full sto­ry below.

Many stu­dents strug­gle with vary­ing degrees of men­tal ill­ness, and the Nation­al Alliance on Men­tal Ill­ness is vis­it­ing UK to help.

The Cer­ti­fied Non­prof­it Pro­fes­sion­al Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion, in part­ner­ship with Kentucky’s NAMI divi­sion, will host “Healthy You: Break­ing the Silence on Men­tal Health in Amer­i­ca” 5 p.m. Wednes­day at Pre­sen­ta­tion U! in the W.T. Young Library.

The event aims to help end the silence sur­round­ing the dis­cus­sion of men­tal health in the U.S.

Dr. David Sus­man, direc­tor of the Jesse G. Har­ris, Jr. Psy­cho­log­i­cal Ser­vices Cen­ter, and Julie Neace, NAMI’s vol­un­teer coor­di­na­tor, will talk about men­tal ill­ness on cam­pus and how social stig­ma may affect its treat­ment.

I think edu­cat­ing stu­dents about men­tal health is an impor­tant use of com­mu­ni­ty resources,” third year law stu­dent Tom Wall said. “No one should have to deal with that alone.”

Neg­a­tiv­i­ty is often asso­ci­at­ed with peo­ple who bat­tle day-to-day with men­tal ill­ness. In turn, the­se peo­ple fall vic­tim to pre­con­ceived ideas that men­tal ill­ness some­how equals men­tal insta­bil­i­ty.

Accord­ing to Sus­man, the media may be one of the rea­sons why men­tal ill­ness has such a neg­a­tive rep­u­ta­tion.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the media are quick to point out every time a mass shoot­ing is done by some­one with a his­to­ry of men­tal ill­ness,” said Sus­man, who also said the silence about men­tal health in Amer­i­ca exists in dif­fer­ent ways. “What they don’t often say is how peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness are not more dis­posed to vio­lent behav­ior.”

Some peo­ple believe that not dis­cussing the prob­lem may be the best course of action to deal with their own men­tal ill­ness. Some peo­ple could feel embar­rassed or fear­ful of talk­ing  to their fam­i­ly and friends. Either way, the­se meth­ods place a Band-Aid over the real prob­lems that can­not be healed with­out prop­er treat­ment.

Although it can affect most peo­ple, the stig­ma asso­ci­at­ed with men­tal ill­ness is a deter­min­ing fac­tor in a per­son hid­ing it from the peo­ple clos­est to them.

Everyone’s sto­ry is unique, so you have some folks that are afraid to talk to their fam­i­ly mem­bers and oth­ers who are not,” Neace said.

NAMI sug­gests men­tal health can be treat­ed through ther­a­py and med­ica­tion. Since each per­son is dif­fer­ent, treat­ments will vary per­son to per­son.

The treat­ment is unique to the indi­vid­u­al and the symp­toms they present,” Neace said. “Not every treat­ment is going to work for every­one. It is up to the indi­vid­u­al to decide what treat­ment they wish to try.”

Men­tal health issues are com­mon in the U.S., with most diag­noses being behav­ioral, men­tal or emo­tion­al dis­or­ders.

One in four adults will be affect­ed by a men­tal health con­cern some­time dur­ing their life,” Sus­man said. “But just because they’re very com­mon, men­tal health issues are often ‘hid­den’ because things like depres­sion or anx­i­ety aren’t always notice­able to oth­ers.”

Neace said men­tal ill­ness does not dis­crim­i­nate, and any­one can be diag­nosed with a men­tal ill­ness at any age. The onset for some men­tal ill­ness­es, includ­ing schiz­o­phre­nia, are most com­mon between 16 to 30 years of age, but peo­ple can be diag­nosed with them at any age.

CNPSA’s ulti­mate goal for “Healthy You: Break­ing the Silence on Men­tal Health in Amer­i­ca” is to edu­cate peo­ple about men­tal ill­ness.

Often the first step toward mak­ing mean­ing­ful changes in atti­tudes and behav­iors is to raise aware­ness through edu­ca­tion,” said Sus­man, who also said it is impor­tant for the col­lege demo­graph­ic to be con­scious of men­tal health. “Col­lege is a stress­ful time … it’s very com­mon to see sig­nif­i­cant rates of stress, depres­sion, anx­i­ety and sub­stance abuse among the col­lege stu­dent pop­u­la­tion.”

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