I learned a great deal about the problems surrounding mental illnesses and how we can alleviate them upon attending “Invisible /Illness: Mental Health at Penn State” and merely just about mental illnesses in general.
I didn’t realize that the environment which you spend time in can affect your mental health so greatly and how common those environments are. Things like having a dysfunctional family or a tendency to feel inadequate/having low self-esteem in a society full of cultural expectations as well as several other factors creates high risk of mental illness. One of the topics discussed that I thought had a great deal of merit was just spreading the word about CAPS, which for those of you who don’t know, is Penn State’s Counselling and Psychological Services.
Another possibility that could help aid students was instituting emotional advisors, who would assist students in managing their personal lives. This would enable students to get in touch with a counselor with ease, however it would also increase PSU’s budget, as they would have to hire a greater number of advisors. This also begs the question doesn’t Penn State already have a sufficient counselling service. Several people talked about this, drawing upon their own personal experiences. One person there, Jack, shared with us that his roommate was dealing with depression and really felt like he didn’t have anyone to talk to about it or confide in. He explained that his roommate went to CAPS and had to wait two hours to be seen by a professional. Jack believed that it would be beneficial to try to find money to either increase the number of doctors CAPS has or to institute a program that assigns those in need and who seek help to emotional advisors.
Another facet of this problem was a mental illness of stress. From papers to projects to exams and finals, everyone experiences it in some way shape or form, especially during college, and most especially on days on which more than one exam is scheduled. One student shared that he believed there should be some sort of rule where students can reschedule their exams if there is more than one per day. He shared his own personal experience where he tried to schedule a conflict exam and the teacher was not very understanding so had a very tough time of doing this. He explained that it was so difficult that that he was stressed out about scheduling the conflict! The entire point of conflict exam scheduling is to alleviate the stresses of having several exams on one day and if the conflict exam scheduling is causing stress, it’s a broken system.
The final facet that was deliberated upon was the stigma associated with mental illness. Many people think mental illnesses are a fake thing or that those with mental illnesses are “crazy” or “insane”. One person there, Mark, explained that words like crazy, insane, suicide, or depressed are said too often and have either lost their meaning as a serious thing not to be taken lightly, or even worse, have become the basis of jokes. He said he did not think suicide jokes or calling others insane was ever appropriate because of how insulting and trivializing it was.
One approach was to label the stigma as a public health issue and rely that education programs dominated by the medical disease model would solve the problem. Research has suggested that educating the public and changing societal attitudes regarding mental health issues may reduce the stigma of mental illness. This is a way of reducing stigma that the ordinary person can take into their own hands. In this day and age, there is no reason why we cannot educate ourselves about these topics. However, one person there brought up the point that emphasis on mental illnesses as brain disorders leads to the perception of individuals with these ailments as helpless and unable to integrate into society.
All of this being said, this is definitely something that is occurring at Penn State and needs to be brought to the attention of all. Helping even just in day to day life can make a difference like explaining to someone who says crazy or insane that that is offensive to people suffering from mental illnesses.