"Mental Health" Monday

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay: Breaking the Mental Health Stigma


screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-2-58-56-pmEveryone gets stressed. The reality of college is that work is stressful, relationships are stressful, and finding a balance between it all has the tendency to be, well… stressful. When it comes to how we handle the challenges of our day to day, everyone’s different. The only right way to handle the ever-changing “status-quo” of our lives is to take it as it comes. And when it all gets to be just a little too much, and you feel like it’s one thing after another stacking up against you, those limits of exactly how much we can handle are pushed.  

More likely than not, everyone reaches a breaking point. For the majority of college students however, how to handle that breaking point is just as big a problem as the stressors they’re facing.

Facing the Facts
According to a study done by Penn State, anxiety has surpassed depression as the most frequent mental health issue college students deal with. However the majority of those who express their anxiety do not seek help in regards to coping with it. So when do you stop and realize when the anxiety you experience has reached a point when help is necessary? And why is it so hard for those who do experience a degree of anxiety that interferes with their academic and social lives to actually get the help they need?

When did your Mental Health Become a Bad Thing?

The stigma behind therapy has always been slightly negative because usually admitting to needing outside  help means admitting that you are unable to help yourself. It seems everyone is always striving to keep up that image of “having it all”, and it usually seems more appealing than being “crazy enough to see a psychologist.”

Think about it like this, why if people are so adamant about seeing a physician for a simple stomach ache or back pain, are they so afraid to talk to someone about days on end of unexplainable sleepless nights, or stress levels that leave them incapacitated, exhausted, and depressed? Just as much as the flu can leave you lying in bed wishing for congestive relief, shouldn’t the stress that comes with our day to day lives that overwhelms us to the point of shutting down be enough to seek help?

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You Are Not Alone
Although I sit here and write to you about how the stigma surrounding therapy has inadvertently hindered many from receiving potentially helpful treatment, during a portion of my college career, something I’m not usually eager to share is that I  myself sought out the assistance of a therapist. Although I’ve used the adjective “melodramatic” to describe myself more than a handful of times, I recognized the when it came to my happiness and well-being, I wasn’t overly emotional or irrational about the fact that I was unhappy.

Like a lot of people my age, especially college students,  for too long I had convinced myself that I was making a bigger deal out of the constant feeling of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. “It will pass,” I would think. “One day I’ll wake up and I’ll just ‘get over it’.”

 I mean what could I really complain about. I was a healthy twenty year old having the time of my life at an amazing university, with a good support system of family and friends.

Don’t get me wrong though, I didn’t have this epiphany overnight. It took months of coping in unhealthy ways to recognize that ignoring the problem wasn’t going to make it go away and I needed outside help. It wasn’t until a friend confided in me with her concerns about her own unhappiness that I realized maybe I wasn’t crazy for thinking it was crazy to not be happy. It took listening to a complete stranger, someone totally unbiased, who knew nothing but my name, to tell me that I was far from alone when it came to the anxiousness I felt every day.

Break the Stigma
Listen to your Instincts. You know yourself. You know exactly how much your body can physically and mentally handle. And I get it, there will be those weeks when you have to push those limits in order to succeed, but be able to recognize when to pull back. If the stress is daunting enough to have you running and hiding from it in any possible way, you’re not alone. Know when to ask for help, whether it’s from a family member, a friend, or even the on campus counseling center,  and recognize that at times, it’s perfectly ok to not be ok.

Syracuse University Counseling Center Contact Information: 315.443.4715

By: Nadine Ghantous