Ending the Stigma Around Mental Health

Anna Sieg, News Editor

Because of the growing number of students who are seeking mental health help, COD is in the process of change. There is a need for more professionals on campus to be able to help the students, even when their academics may not be affected by their mental health. These concerns have led state lawmakers to approval of the “Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act.” The mental health fair came about in response to the new state legislation. COD must now implement the changes called for in the new law. 


However, the amount of mental health appointments booked with COD counselors rose from 500 during the 2016-2017 school year, to 1400 during the 2017-2018 school year. The first panel that spoke at the Mental Health Fair included a COD counselor, a student, and other therapists and health care professionals. They spoke about the current state of the stigma around mental health and the obstacles that students may face when dealing with mental health issues.


Social media is an easy way for people to compare themselves to others and develop a feeling of isolation. During the panel, social media was brought up as a growing problem that affects students’ mental health. Not only are there more social triggers, but there are also barriers that commonly prohibit students from asking for help. Some of these barriers include a hesitance to tell family and friends about feelings, lack of insurance and financial issues, and the bad stigma around mental health issues. 


Silvia Donatelli, a mental health counselor at COD said, “The goal (of the panel) is to improve what we’re doing, and see what we’re doing well, and see what we can do better.”


Midwest Director of Young Invincibles Erin Steva said the law “ensures students have the resources they need on campus to have strong mental health wellness, so there’s a variety of supports that they will be receiving as a result of the bill. This includes enhanced peer support, increasing faculty and administration competency about this issue, and enhancing the support they can receive both on and off campus.” 

The bill also includes technical advancements, including relationships with other campuses and other assistance centers so students can find the best place to get help.


The second panel included Dr. Nathania Montes, Jen McGowan, Candace McCarthy King, David Albert and Alison Ward. They discussed the bill and everything that it proposes to change at COD. They also discussed the next steps to continue to move the bill forward. 


Further funding is still needed to implement the changes. The panel encouraged people at COD to have a discussion with government officials in the state to ask for more funding, and also ask what else they need in order to keep making progress. 


Students want this bill to become a part of everyday life at COD. 

Evan Gray, one of the student panelists talked about his personal experience of dealing with mental health in school. “I know how my school dealt with kids like me… they made us feel like we weren’t really worth it. I wanna raise awareness in schools for people to be able to recognize when someone is depressed or when someone is suicidal.” 


The panel urged teachers and students who see someone showing signs of depression to ask that person about it. Some signs can include – withdrawing from social contact, self harm or talking about harming themselves or others, isolating themselves, not participating in activities they used to enjoy, dropping grades and more. They discussed the importance of normalizing these feelings and sharing personal experiences to reduce the stigma around mental health. 


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is: 1-800-273-8255 and is available in English and Spanish. Or, if texting is an easier option, you can reach the Crisis Text Line by sending “NOW” to 741741.