The stigma surrounding mental health must be deconstructed

Bridgette Windell

Let’s talk about something that needs to be taken more seriously, something that doesn’t get talked about enough: mental health.

I don’t know what it is, but for some reason the United States has a very negative social stigma attached to the concept of mental health. If we hear about someone going to therapy, people automatically think, “What’s wrong with them?” Here’s the deal, plain and simple: we are not comfortable with mental health as a culture and we need to be.

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More than 1 in 16 people worldwide have a mental health problem and most of the time, that problem develops before age 25. More people than you may think have a mental illness, and some of the more common ones include bi-polar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and anxiety. Just because a person has one of these illnesses does not mean they should be defined by them. These illnesses do not make them any less of a person, and you should never think “Oh my god. What happened to them?” People get sick, and that’s just a fact of life.  

Here in Colorado, we are not new to the occurrence of mass shootings. And oftentimes but not all the time, the gunman is connected to a mental illness; take for example the James Holmes case. I’m not saying that mental illness is an excuse for the horrors committed in these crimes, but it does show that mental illness is, in fact, a serious health concern that greatly affects our society.

I have heard some people say, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” And if that is the case, then I’m surprised that mental health isn’t a top priority for them. This isn’t a discussion about shootings, this article is simply to advocate for mental health as a real problem, one that contributes to other problems that affect society, that shouldn’t be neglected.

When you come down with a cold, you go to the doctor, and sometimes when you get into a mental funk, you go to a therapist. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Just as it is recommended that you see your doctor for an annual check up, I think that people should have a yearly check up with a therapist or psychiatrist. Whether the treatment for a mental illness be medication or regular visits, is up to the doctor’s discretion, however, preventative care is the best care. 

I know that some people will have read the above statement and gasp, thinking, “I’m not going to see a person to talk about my feelings.” And that reaction is the kind of insensitivity towards mental health I’m talking about. Thirty minutes to an hour to check your mental well-being cannot hurt you — at all. And in some cases, you don’t know what good a psychiatrist can do until you see them. This is not to say that everyone is mentally unhealthy — some people are mentally sound but it would be highly proactive to check. 

ASCSU launched a campaign last spring in order to end the stigma behind mental illness. In this campaign, CSU students declare their mental illness and show that it does not define them by contrasting it to their strengths and involvement. On the website you will find ways to end this negative stigma, including openly talking about your own dealings with mental illness. As stated on the site, “The more it is hidden, the more people believe that it is shameful and needs to be concealed.” 

The topic of mental illness is important, it is common and most importantly, it should never be shameful to seek out help. Let’s talk more openly about mental health, and work to end the stigmas and stereotypes surrounding it.

Collegian Columnist Bridgette Windell can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @Bridgette_Rae.