“If one says they have cancer, they get many empathetic reactions and willing caregivers. If someone is courageous enough to tell another they have a mental illness, people suddenly want to change the conversation” – Carra Ward, Snow College’s Health and Wellness Administrative Assistant.
On October 5 and 6, Snow College’s Health and Wellness Center hosted interactive presentations to help reduce the stigma that revolves around mental illness.
Carra Ward acknowledges that, “The Health and Wellness Center’s main goal that we want to achieve, is to educate the students and faculty that mental illness is an issue not an identity.”
The hosting of Mental Health Awareness, allows students to become educated on the symptoms and correct terminology of different mental disorders.
Some students walk away from Mental Health Awareness week recognizing that they possess symptoms of a particular mental disorder. This awareness makes students more willing to talk to a counselor now that their mental illness is identifiable.
Others walk away from Mental Health Awareness week being thankful that they can now better understand those around them who attribute mental illness.
From a public standpoint, stereotypes depicting people with mental illness as being dangerous, unpredictable, responsible for their illness, or generally incompetent can lead to active discrimination such as excluding people with these conditions from employment, social, or educational opportunities.
Nationwide, mental illness is a crisis. Mental illnesses have wide reaching effects on people’s education, employment, physical health, and relationships.
Studies have shown that knowledge, culture, and social networks can influence the relationship between stigma and access to care (Association for Psychological Science). Like Snow College’s Mental Health Awareness Week, other public-health initiatives have focused on educating people about mental health to combat harmful stereotypes related to illness and treatment.
The mental health stigma is not something that will go away on its own. However, if society is willing to work together to educate others as a community, the way mental illness is viewed can be changed.