The toll of mental illness on students
CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and suicide which could be distressing to some readers.
As a student at university, I know first-hand the toll that mental illness can take on one's academic and personal life. The demands of coursework, social pressures, and living away from home can all contribute to increased stress and anxiety. And for many students, this can lead to the development of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
During my first year of university, I struggled with depression. I felt like I was drowning in my coursework and my personal life was falling apart. I had trouble completing normal everyday things like getting out of bed in the morning or eating food, it was incredibly difficult to focus on anything. I didn't want to burden my friends and family with my problems, so I kept everything bottled up inside. It wasn't until I hit rock bottom and nearly dropped out that I realized I needed help.
In this article, I want to share my personal journey of breaking the stigma around mental illness. I'll talk about the challenges I faced and the resources that helped me cope with my depression. I'll also explore the broader issue of mental health stigma and the efforts being made to address it.
The stigma surrounding mental illness
Unfortunately, mental illness still carries a lot of stigmas in our society. Many people feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about their struggles, and this can prevent them from seeking help. The stigma surrounding mental illness can manifest in many ways, from subtle comments and assumptions to outright discrimination.
One common stereotype is that people with mental illness are weak or unable to handle the stresses of life. This could not be further from the truth. Mental illness is a medical condition that can affect anyone, regardless of their strength or resilience. I play sports, I enjoy going out with my friends and I am a very extroverted person, but my depression caused me for a period of time to become a very shy and anxious person, meaning I struggled with anxiety in social situations where usually I would have no problem at all. Another stereotype is that people with mental illness are dangerous or violent. In reality, the vast majority of people with mental illness pose no threat to others.
These stereotypes and misconceptions can have serious consequences. They can make it harder for people to seek treatment, as they may feel ashamed or afraid of being judged, which is very much how I felt. They can also lead to discrimination in the workplace, education, and social settings.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), only 43% of adults with a mental illness received treatment in 2019. This is a worrying statistic, as untreated mental illness can have serious consequences, including suicide.
Breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness is not something that can be accomplished overnight. It requires ongoing effort and commitment from everyone in our society. While there is no single solution to this complex issue, there are many individual actions that we can take to make a difference.
Speak Up: One of the most important things we can do is to speak up about mental illness. This means sharing our own experiences and struggles with others, as well as challenging stereotypes and misconceptions when we encounter them. It can be scary to talk openly about mental health, but it's often the first step towards reducing stigma and promoting understanding. This was the first step to me getting better. I started by talking to my closest friends and family, which made it a lot easier to get me the help I needed.
Educate Yourself: Another important action is to educate ourselves about mental illness. This can involve reading books and articles, attending workshops or webinars, or even taking a course on mental health. The more we know about mental illness, the better equipped we are to challenge stereotypes and provide support to those who need it.
Support Others: Supporting others who are struggling with mental illness is another powerful action we can take. This can involve reaching out to a friend or family member who is going through a tough time, or volunteering with a local mental health organization. Small acts of kindness and support can go a long way in reducing the isolation and shame that many people with mental illness experience.
Take Care of Yourself: Finally, it's important to remember that taking care of our own mental health is just as important as supporting others. This means practicing self-care, seeking help when we need it, and setting healthy boundaries. By prioritizing our own mental health, we can model healthy behaviour and reduce the stigma around seeking help. This is what helped me get better. I did things like go to the gym, read a book, I taught myself how to play the piano. Being as productive as possible will not only help you feel better, but get you into good habitats that can be used for life.
Lets work together to end the stigma
Breaking the stigma around mental illness is an ongoing process that requires effort and commitment from all of us. As a student who has struggled with depression, I know first-hand the toll that mental illness can take on one's academic and personal life. It's important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and that there are many resources available to support us on our journey to recovery.
By speaking up, educating ourselves, supporting others, and taking care of ourselves, we can all play a role in reducing the stigma around mental illness and promoting mental health for all. Let's continue the conversation and work together to create a society that values and supports the mental health of all its members.