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Students in need of a monthly 'stress less' day by Point Park

Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09

Allow me to state my bias upfront. I’ve had a mental illness for years. I’ve been in and out of psychiatrist’s offices, I rely on medication to help me function on a daily basis, and many mornings it is hard to get up and face the world as depression turns me into a prisoner of my own mind.

I am no mental health professional and I can’t proffer the credentials of a Ph.D., but I have lived with this for a while, so I can speak from experience: the Point Park community needs to discuss the current state of mental health among students and advertise what the university is doing to help students with these problems.

When I say that our community has a mental health problem, many get uncomfortable. Mental illnesses are a taboo topic that bring stigmas and often silence among a large population.

I am one of the lucky ones. I’ve taken advantage of the wonderful mental health services here, and I’m improving every day. But there are so many others who face hard times from stress, a crippling work demand and undiagnosed or untreated mental illnesses. Something more must be done to help this surprisingly large population of students that face these all too common burdens.

According to an article that ran in USA Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that antidepressants are now the most prescribed drugs in the United States, jumping 400% since 1988. The biggest jump of antidepressant usage is in pre-schoolers and adolescents. This alone is a clear warning that we have a large mental health problem on our hands.

The article said that an estimated 1 million people in this country report attempting suicide each year and one person succeeds every fourteen minutes. One of those suicides was at Carnegie Mellon University last December, where a student jumped out of a dorm window.

If this isn’t an alarming wakeup call to the discussion that needs to be had, I’m not sure what is.

Point Park, like many universities, has excellent mental health services on campus. The Campus Life staff and Police are trained to handle mental health crises, but many students suffer alone and don’t take advantage of these services. Furthermore, many friends don’t know what to do to help. We can do better.

Being friends with a person who has a mental illness is a heavy burden to carry. Often it is accompanied by frustration, constant worry and a lot of sleepless nights. I’ve lost many friends because of depression. I don’t blame them; I was a hard person to be friends with, and they just didn’t know how to handle me.

The first thing that we as a community should do is educate each other. We should teach students how to identify someone with a mental illness, and more importantly, how to encourage their friends to get help from professionals on campus.

Following the suicide of its student, Carnegie Mellon had a town hall meeting where students discussed the state of the university, stress levels and mental health issues due to high academic expectations. Point Park should do something similar. We could use this opportunity to discuss warning signs and remind everyone that life is hard, but at Point Park there is an army of people willing to help everybody fight during the bad days.

The “stress less” week during finals is an excellent idea. Maybe we could consider implementing a “stress less” day once or twice during the month and use that opportunity to remind students of the resources that the university has to help students when they get “stuck in the mud.”

When I started my education here, I was in the School of Communication. One of my classes was HUMA 150, or the University Experience. In this class we discussed mental health and more importantly the mental health services on campus. Using some classroom instructional time to inform students of the services available is an excellent way to ensure all students are exposed to the resources here.

We need to stop the stigmas. We can’t be afraid to reach out to people who are facing depression, suicide, self-harm, alcohol and drug abuse, or are just having a rough semester. The statistics I stated earlier indicate this problem is more widespread than we would like to acknowledge, especially among our generation and future generations that will soon be at Point Park. Now is the time to act and improve mental health on campus.

Life is hard. Having to deal with all of our problems by ourselves is an unrealistic expectation. Reaching out for a little help, or encouraging a friend to reach out, is a sign of strength and not weakness. With a little help comes hope that tomorrow will be brighter for us all. We may even save some lives.

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