The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

69° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

The silent epidemic: How mental health disorders affect society

There is an epidemic in America and especially on college campuses that no one speaks about. It is mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four Americans have a mental illness in any given year, and one in four Americans are on psychiatric medications at any given time.
Think about that, it means that when you are sitting in a class of 32 students, eight of your classmates are possibly dealing with a mental illness and/or are on medication for it. Such huge numbers like that lead me to wonder, why is the topic of mental health so taboo in our culture?
The United States is one of the most depressed countries in the world, with the World Health Organization reporting that 19.2 percent of Americans report having a serious bout of depression for an extended period at some point in their lives.
Once again the question arises, if this is such a huge issue then why is so seldom spoken about? There are few mentions of mental illness in popular culture and it is not something that people can discuss openly without feeling uncomfortable.
I believe that the first step to getting this huge problem in our country solved is first becoming more open to the reality of mental illness in our society, and we need to begin shifting the blame from the patient. I believe it has to do with guilt and responsibility. There is an attitude that people who have a mental illness most likely just don’t have enough willpower or are weak. In the old times people who were mentally ill were considered possessed by demons.
We have come a far way from that, but that burden of guilt is still placed on the patient with the disorder. Recent medical data and research have shown that mental illness like depression and anxiety, cause real changes in the brain. The brains of depressed patients have less activity in certain parts of the brain and even have degeneration of brain tissue in some areas.
It is still up for scientific debate whether depression causes brain changes or vice versa, but the data is clear: the disorders are not just “all in your head,” as many people would say.
This I think is a huge public health issue. Even interning and working in hospitals, I would see the attitudes of the doctors and staff change slightly when a patient was being checked for mental illness. There was less compassion and more accusation in their voices as they spoke about various mental disorders a patient might have.
Personally, I think one way to make the topic of mental illness less taboo and more accepted is to begin discussing these things with people when they are still young. America seems to have a culture of stifling emotions and pretending that negative feelings don’t exist. It is part of our uniquely American independent spirit.
I don’t think that we as a country have to lose our identity of being independent and self- sufficient in order to more openly discuss these issues. I think that mental illnesses should be viewed as any other disease, and this way it makes it easier to speak about these conditions more objectively.
A huge revolution in thinking about alcoholism was the “disease concept” where the problem of alcoholism was seen more as a disease than purely just a lack of willpower.
This disease concept led to the most successful alcoholism treatment programs. There are some schools and colleges in the country where peer counseling and discussion groups are something that all students have to do. I believe that these things are hugely beneficial because it opens up the discussion of mental illness in a student population and then allows people to rely on their peers for support and help ,just as they would when facing any other problem.
In our fast-paced world that is so interconnected it would serve us well to slow down and make sure that we as a people are adapting to the changes that are occurring in our society. There are numerous things that we as a country could do to begin to mitigate mental illness. As I said before, I think that more dialogue in schoolds and colleges through peer counseling classes would be a good way to start.
Another way that we could begin to help those with mental illnesses, especially in colleges, would be for the health and counseling centers of the college to be more proactive in advertising the services that are available and making it clear to students that there is a place where they can go for help.
I think that the colleges themselves as a whole also need to address the issue. Colleges spend a lot of money addressing rape and the dangers of alcohol to incoming freshmen by using mandatory presentations and speakers.
The same thing should be done about mental health. All incoming freshmen should be given the information about the prevalent of the different mental diseases that exist highlighting the ones they are most likely to run into during their college career.
They should be given information about identifying risk factors in friends and themselves when it comes to potentially developing a mental disorder. They should also be instucted in different ways that they may be able to go about getting help for friends they think are suffering from these diseases.
Colleges already address the issue of how a person should approach another student who is going to drink and drive or may potentially have an alcohol problem, and this type of instruction should also be included when it comes to mental health.
As our society becomes more and more connected, it is possible for people to feel more and more isolated. If you are someone who is suffering from a mental illness, then choose to tell a close friend or family member about it and make sure to visit the Student Health Center on campus. The first part of treating any disease is making the diagnosis, and that can’t happen until you speak about it with someone else.
Let’s hope that, in the future, all colleges, schools and public institutions will make greater efforts to reach out to students and solve this public health menace.
Until then, we as peers in Stony Brook have to try and look out for the people around us who may be suffering quietly. There is no cast or crutch that would indicate to you that a good friend of yours might need help.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Statesman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Statesman

Comments (0)

All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *