We need to address the stigma about mental health

Upon graduating high school, many young adults are persuaded to enter a new realm of life at college. Looking at movies, brochures and word of mouth, many are excited to start the next chapter of their lives. Amidst all of the wonderful opportunities going to college presents, there seems to be a topic that the university does not address – the toll these changes take on students and their mental health.

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Universities do not frequently address the topic of mental health. For example, during freshman orientation, Seton Hall offers sessions on drug and alcohol abuse, sexual violence prevention and other student lifestyle topics, completely overlooking a session for mental health.

Mental health affects many students on campus. In an attempt to help students, universities should speak out about mental health, let its students know that it is a Stigma Free campus and keep an open dialogue to reassure students that it is normal to feel and express concerns they may have with their mental health. There needs to be a better promotional and preventative approach to mental health care on campus, so that students will know that their needs are being listened and responded to.

Seton Hall does offer free counseling services at the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to help students cope with any mental health issues they may be having. It is clear that simply offering services is not enough, however. With an issue so taboo to talk about, Seton Hall as well as other universities need to actively speak out publicly on the topic, reassuring students that what they are feeling is normal and that they are not alone.

Just this past summer, the Princeton Review ranked Seton Hall third for unhappiest students. According to the Princeton Review, past and current students who participated in the survey were asked the question, “I am happy at my school.” Based on results, it is obvious that the majority of students disagreed. Also, according to the American Council on Education, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. When a student is lost to poor mental health, especially on campus, it should not be regarded as just an accident. It is the university’s responsibility to make resources known and available and to destigmatize the mental health conversation.

While universities and colleges usually do offer counseling services like Seton Hall, not enough of them actively speak on the topic publicly and frequently. As young adults trying to navigate new terrain, it is important for us to know about the free counseling services, but it is also important for our schools to normalize talking about mental health in a public space so we can feel more comfortable coming forward with our own issues. It may be a difficult topic to address, but it is absolutely necessary to keep our campus and our students happy and safe.

Jillian Cancela is a sophomore nursing major from Lyndhurst, N.J. She can be reached at jillian.cancela@student.shu.edu.

Author: Jillian Cancela

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