Balancing the demands of school with the complexities of personal life can be challenging, taking a toll on both our physical and mental health. The ability to handle these challenges is often exasperated by stigmas surrounding mental health and its impact on our day-to-day lives. Throughout your educational journey prioritizing self-care becomes increasingly crucial as it helps reduce stress, putting you in the right mindset to complete your degree. However, it's not just about enriching your mental health; you also have the power to contribute to fostering a more supportive and compassionate community.
The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
In today’s day and age, more universities and employers are willing to talk about the importance of mental health and even have programs that are free or included with benefits to support their students and employees. However, negative perceptions toward people who have mental health conditions can be common. Negative words, phrases, and actions all contribute to the stigmas surrounding mental health and the discrimination faced by those suffering from mental health issues.
Because of this, people often feel ashamed for something that is out of their control and it can even prevent them from seeking necessary help. As more people avoid treatment, statistics have placed the lifetime prevalence of mental health disorders to be as high as 50% and the 1-year prevalence to be as high as 30%.
Additional effects of mental health stigmatization include:
- Bullying, physical violence, or harassment
- Fewer opportunities and more difficulties at work, school, or social activities
- Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover mental health treatment.
- Lack of understanding by family and family
- Lower self-esteem and social isolation
- Thinking that you’ll never succeed in certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation.
Overcoming the Stigma
So, how do you fight the stigma and prove the naysayers wrong?
- Be conscious of language: Remind your peers that words have power. It’s easy to refrain from using mental health conditions as adjectives and most people are willing to replace problematic language if their behavior is called out.
- Be honest about treatment: Don't let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by reducing symptoms that interfere with everyday tasks.
- Don’t harbor self-stigma: Self-stigma refers to the negative attitudes and internalized shame people with mental illnesses have about their condition. People with self-judgment may mistakenly believe that their condition is a sign of personal weakness. However, seeking counseling and proper education about your condition can help overcome negative thoughts.
- Educate others: Judgments surrounding mental health always stem from a lack of understanding. When people learn the statistics surrounding mental illness and how many Americans are fighting symptoms each day (around 50 million Americans have experienced some form of mental illness), they are more cognizant of the comments they make.
- Talk openly about mental health: Consider expressing your opinions in a public setting. Being open and honest about your challenges will encourage those in similar situations to seek help. The more honest you can be with your peers, the greater impact it will have.
Always remember that if you are battling with your mental health, it doesn’t make you incapable of success. Learning to accept your condition and recognize what you need to do to treat it while helping to educate others, can encourage positivity within your community and break any negative preconceived notions.
Boosting Your Mental Health
While healthcare, nursing, and social work students may receive specialized training in dealing with mental health stigmatism, every student needs to understand their role in combating this pervasive issue.
Some self-care tips to remember while balancing academic stress include:
- Prioritizing items that are the most important and worry less about the small stuff.
- Getting and staying organized
- Reaching out to fellow students for academic and social support
- Using resources like ULifeline and Herzing Wellness counseling
Herzing University wants all students to be champions within their own field, practicing and promoting positive mental health practices.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text 988 to contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention, and crisis resources.