The first week in October is commemorated as National Mental Health Awareness Week. Tomorrow, Oct 6, is National Depression Screening Day.
On the surface, weeks or days like this seem relatively unimportant to most. With the recent passing of National Boyfriend Day or Tuesday’s National Taco Day, it feels odd to acknowledge that there’s a national holiday designated to bring awareness to depression, or mental illness in general.
Days and weeks like these are important because even though it feels more normal to talk about anxiety and depression than it did a few years ago, there is still a massive stigma and shame attached to having anxiety or depression.
People are still terrified to talk to peers, professors or family members about their mental health, and that’s a huge problem among university students.
In many contexts, depression and anxiety are referred to as “invisible diseases.” Though they don’t necessarily manifest themselves physically, to at least 25 percent of college students, they’re not invisible – in fact, most days, they feel all too real.
Numbers don’t lie. And what the numbers have to say is chilling to even the most desensitized of college students.
According to a study done in 2012, 44 percent of college students report symptoms of depression. Of those 44 percent, 75 percent of students don’t seek help.
Even scarier is the fact that suicide is the third leading cause in death amongst college students. What these numbers are telling us is that college students are struggling with mental illness and feel too scared or ashamed to ask for help.
What the numbers tell us is a terrifying truth: these “invisible diseases” are going untreated, and they are killing our students.
Every single day, students are having panic attacks in between classes because of family situations at home, the statistics test that they failed, or the hours that they’re working.
Every single day, students struggle to get out of bed and to their classes because they’ve lost the will to live – let alone be completely dedicated to their academic success.
Every single day on college campuses, around 1,000 students decide to end their lives because of an inescapable sadness or worry that consumes their entire life.
As a student population, we cannot let ourselves be desensitized. We cannot let ourselves be closed off to others because of shame or stigma.
It’s our responsibility as students at Fresno State to start conversations about mental illness that can encourage others to feel safe enough to share their own experiences.
There are incredible resources on campus that create safe places to share who we truly are. The Student Health and Counseling Center at Fresno State offers not only individual counseling that helps develop ways of dealing with challenges and encourages self-understanding, but also offers relationship counseling for couples of all kinds: roommates, friends or significant others. To schedule a counseling appointment at the health center, call (559) 278-2734.
In addition to the Health Center, the Cross Cultural and Gender Center also offers a safe place to talk about gender, racial or cultural issues that are affecting the mental health of students. The Cross Cultural and Gender Center offers workshops that educate students and faculty about the importance of understanding gender and sexual identity.
When you’re depressed, it’s easy to convince yourself that no one cares why or if you’re struggling. When you’re anxious, it’s easy to convince yourself you’re doing it all wrong. It’s easy to feel ashamed for not feeling “normal” inside, but just know that it’s okay not to be OK.
It’s our job to share our stories with others. It’s our job to be brave and show our true colors.
It’s our job to buckle down, be bold and express who we truly are – even if that’s staring in the face of stigma and shame and choosing bravery instead.