Mental wellness conversation necessary

Discussing and promoting the issues surrounding mental health should not be taboo.

Martha Pietruszewski

There is simply no other way to put it: Depression and anxiety are real and scary. But I want you to know that you are not alone.

In 2012, about one in four college students suffered from some kind of mental illness, whether it was depression, anxiety or something else. The University of Minnesota is taking steps to show students they are not alone, but we can do better. There needs to be lasting awareness and impact for the entire University community — not just those directly affected by mental illness.

In order to do this, we need to frame mental illness in a different way. The word “illness” makes it seem like some sort of untreatable disease. Not everyone has a mental illness, but we do all need to be concerned about our mental wellness. If we reframe the word in a more positive way, it will help erase the stigma.

Students from the Carlson School of Management are taking a step in the right direction toward having a conversation about mental wellness. Later in the spring, Business Board, a student group at Carlson, is hosting an event to generate awareness and create a lasting impact. Students will be coming up on stage to tell their stories to get the conversation going.

For this event to be truly successful, however, it will need to be held annually. By exposing a different group of students to an issue they may not have been aware of, Carlson’s event can have a positive and lasting impact.

The conversation about mental wellness should start well before students even reach college — the University needs to be proactive in helping students.

Instead of waiting for the stress of college to catch up with students and lead to problems like anxiety and depression, we need to make incoming students aware of what may happen.

The University has some amazing resources for its current students — such as Boynton Health Services, University Counseling and Consulting Services and a website dedicated to mental health resources.

I think it is just as important to share these resources with incoming students to show that college doesn’t have to be such a scary place.

There have been recent articles published in the Minnesota Daily highlighting efforts the University has made toward increasing awareness about mental health and improving its services.

But what has been the result of these reported attempts to change?

There are some student groups on campus that are shining stars in the fight against mental illness. Active Minds and University Suicide Awareness and Prevention have hosted Mental Awareness Day on campus for the past two years. These students set out chairs for the nearly 1,100 students that have committed suicide across the nation. These events have a large shock factor, but some students still don’t understand why this action was symbolic.

The fight for mental wellness never truly stops. However, we can ease the battle by spreading awareness in as many ways as we are able to.