A few weeks ago, I was running late to class after a long traffic jam on my way to campus. I parked in the garage across the street from Gampel Pavilion and slow-jogged my way past the Student Union on my way. As I walked down Fairfield Way, I noticed a pink and blue van advertising free ultrasounds and STD screenings.
No one should have to wait for access to mental health resources, however, this is the reality for many students at the University of Connecticut.
Over the past five years the University of Connecticut Counseling Services has seen a continuous increase in students seeking mental health treatment for anxiety and depression—the two most common concerns in college level students according to the 2017 Annual Report the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH).
September is National Suicide Prevention month, a time to highlight the resources available to aid people who struggle with suicidal thoughts and those who seek to help them. Every year, more than 40,000 individuals in the U.S. take their own lives, cutting short their future and devastating the ones around them. While this issue affects tens of thousands every year, people are often uninformed about the options available to them. Because of this lack of awareness and due to the stigma associated with mental health issues, many who need help do not seek aid from a mental health professional.
For those at UConn, there are useful options available if someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts or other mental health-related issues. The main organization to see would be Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS), which provides individual therapy, group counseling and a variety of other services. Importantly, CMHS does outreach to students, faculty and staff, so they can recognize the warning signs of someone who may be contemplating suicide.
Being aware that resources are available is equally important as being willing to utilize these resources. Although our awareness of mental health has been broadened, there are still a variety of stigmas that exist around mental health issues, and especially suicide. Because the pains of mental health problems are not easily visible or easy to make sense of, people have historically been suspicious of those with certain illnesses and dismissive of their legitimacy. These stigmas still linger in certain environments so it can take a great deal of courage to seek out help.
Therefore, it is important for everyone at the university to be understanding of those who deal with these problems and offer our support. That sort of acceptance can go a long way towards people opening up about their issues. We want to get to a point where students aren’t afraid of approaching one another, especially their close friends, about mental health issues out of the fear that they might be judged or mocked. It is unfortunate that so many people are driven to take their own lives, but if we join together and encourage an open dialogue, we can let people know they are not alone, they are not unwanted and they are not unloved.