Diminishing stigmas around mental health

Mental health issues are very common in today’s society, but on campus, one group is looking to change that.

That group is NAMI Washburn, a group dedicated to providing mental health support, education and advocacy for those suffering from a mental illness. The group’s president is Alice Harnisch.

“Our mission is to improve the lives of students who are directly or indirectly affected by mental illness, increase the awareness and mental health services on campus, and to eliminate the stigma students with mental illness face,” said Harnisch.

And that group is a large one. According to healthyminds.org, a Web site for the American Psychiatric Association, in 2008 more than 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed it was difficult to function.” Another 49 percent reported “overwhelming” anxiety, while 10 percent admitted to being treated for depression professionally and 6 percent had contemplated suicide.

One of the biggest issues that people who suffer from mental health issues face is the stigma that is attached to having a mental illness.

“Many people who are students who may have a mental illness are not ready to admit it,” said Harnisch. “Some people may joke or mock themselves because friends and family may do the same things to them. Loved ones’ rejection has caused others to suppress their mental health needs. Stigma can cause health problems and mental health problems to worsen.”

NAMI Washburn is currently looking for more students to get involved to help plan events, raise awareness about mental health issues and reduce the stigma surrounding the issue. NAMI Washburn is also looking to create support groups for those students who are currently coping with mental health issues. Those interested can contact Harnisch at [email protected]

The American Psychiatric Association recommends that people experiencing debilitating mental health issues see a physician. Valeo Behavioral Health is a local mental health facility that helps to treat those who have mental health issues. It has a sliding pay scale to help those who do not have insurance.

Valeo offers services like therapy, psychiatry, support groups and in-patient treatment. Its Web site is valeotopeka.org. There are many other places available for treatment, including therapists and psychiatrists in private practice.

Washburn offers counseling service in Morgan 123. Hours are weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Student Health also offers diagnostic consultations for mental health issues. Student Health is located in Morgan 170 and is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. during the week.