College is a difficult world for anyone to handle, with copious amounts of stress, paper work, exams, and constant deadlines to meet. And for those of us who struggle with mental health issues, all of these issues become magnified. Not only do we struggle to keep up in college, but we also struggle to find the support we need due to the massive amounts of stigma surrounding mental health issues in college. Read on to learn more about this stigma and how it effects the college experience of so many students.
MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA IN COLLEGE
by Madison Wright
Mental illness is not respected as an actual illness in today’s society. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true. Mental illness is an intangible disorder in a society that only values what can be physically proven. The fact that mental illness can be just as debilitating as any physical illness is not accounted for. This is an especially big problem in college.
The workload placed on college students today is extensive. Classes combined with extracurriculars and even jobs can be more than one person can handle. Yet, we are expected to balance all of this without complaining about being stressed out about it. The very sad truth is that people are more likely to feel comfortable telling a teacher they missed class or an assignment because of a physical illness than a mental illness.
Some mental disorders, like depression or anxiety, can leave people bed-ridden, making even the thought of going to school seem impossible. Sadly, it is not as simple as emailing your professor that you’re too stressed for class to get you excused. Even if the professor were to show compassion, the odds are that the student would not feel that being stressed or experiencing anxiety is a good enough excuse to tell their teachers, due to the stigma surrounding mental illness.
This concept is highlighted in a Ted Talk with Jessica Gimeno, a popular blogger with bipolar disorder. Jessica tells the story of her struggle with mental illness in college and how she even missed a midterm once from the fear of her teacher not thinking her feelings were a valid excuse. Luckily, an advisor of hers had a family member with bipolar disorder and helped her understand the importance of advocating for her own mental health. Gimeno has many helpful resources on her website that concern this issue, even including a template of what to send a professor if you are dealing with mental illness.
Advocating for your own mental health is a very important practice of self care, which is what makes tools like these so important. So if you ever feel like your health is not a valid excuse for something, remember that our campus has resources like the Disabilities Resource Center and the Counseling and Psychological Services office to make sure that you feel healthy and comfortable at UCSC.