For those of you who may not be aware, the month of May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, but that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t talk about it every other month.
As mental health awareness has taken a larger precedent in the medical field, at college campuses and communities nation-wide, it’s important to understand how large of a problem it truly is and how many people it affects.
According to the American Psychology Association, 95% of college counseling center directors surveyed stated that the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern in their centers or on campus.
The same survey also found that anxiety is the top presenting concern among college students at 41.6%, followed by depression at 36.4% and relationship problems at 35.8%.
Yet, the most worrisome and troubling part of the survey was that 19% of directors report the availability of psychiatric services on their campuses as inadequate.
Now let’s do some math: the survey had a total of a little over 4 million students participate in the study, so if we take the 19% of directors who stated their campus has inadequate mental health services and then take 19% of 4 million, we get about 800,000.
That’s 800,000 students who aren’t provided the necessary mental health services they need to either seek help, get medication they need or literally not die.
To reiterate the point, that’s 800,000 students who may have suicidal thoughts or self-harm and not one person may even know about that individual’s mental illness.
This also doesn’t take into account the type of insurance a student has. Do they have insurance through their university or through their parents? Perhaps their parents don’t have a steady income and they’re covered by Medicaid, which offers very little coverage or options to seek mental health services.
What if a student doesn’t know what helplines to call or are too afraid to call those helplines? Even worse, what if they don’t have an adequate or helpful support system of friends and family?
Furthermore, even if a student does find a doctor or psychiatrist who is willing to help, they may not feel comfortable telling that physician their personal history and that’s completely understandable.
Despite the stigma of being diagnosed with a mental illness or depression, it is OK to not be OK as long as you get the help you need. It’s difficult to tell someone who suffers from depression that it will go away eventually, but that is true if they get the proper medication to treat those mental illnesses.
Please remember that you’re not alone. There are services out there for you and never forget that your physical and mental well-being are more important than anything else in this world.
The scenarios just mentioned are the reality that many students face across the nation and here at Illinois State University.