Together we can destigmatize mental illness | The Triangle

Together we can destigmatize mental illness

Mental disorders affect the core of humanity: our minds. One in five Americans have mental illnesses, of which 75 percent begin before the age of 24.

And now, 80 percent of college students report COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health, meaning that many college students are feeling the effects. So, it’s clearly important to reach out now to students as well as friends and family members of all ages to ask how they are doing.

Knowing so many young adults are facing anxiety and depression, among other mental illnesses, is not only concerning but also should make us want to do more. So, what’s the barrier? Often shame and fear of what others think ends up paralyzing us into thinking that we can handle it on our own or, worse, that no one cares.

Starting the dialogue around mental health and wellness can make all the difference. The first step is to identify common warning signs including mood changes; extreme sadness; irritability and anger; excessive worrying; avoiding friends or social activities; changes in sleep, appetite, focus and/or energy; difficulty perceiving reality; repeated abuse of alcohol or drugs; intense concern with appearance; inability to carry out daily activities and acts of self-harm or thoughts of suicide.

Never underestimate the power of simply being there. We can still make the effort to check in even if we are not physically around one another. Simply asking “Hi, how are you?” can make all the difference. Suggested follow-up questions include:

“I care about you and want to listen. What do you want to share about your feelings?”

“It seems like you are going through a difficult time. How can I help?”

“Who or what has helped you in the past?”

“Can I help connect you to a counselor or community resource that can help you?”

Treatment success rates for mental disorders are similar to those for physical illnesses. Knowing we are not alone and letting others know they aren’t alone is key. We can implement helpful strategies that promote long-term wellbeing for yourself or others, including:

Elevate your mood, improve energy and keep yourself in good mental health by implementing these “Happy Habits:”

Turn to your community. For example, American Campus Communities, the nation’s largest student housing company, has partnered with the Hi, How Are You Project to roll out training for its resident assistants on college campuses across the U.S.The project aims to help student residents who may be struggling by connecting them to expert resources.

Know the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255, or call 911 if there’s immediate potential danger.

With genuine concern and no judgement, we can come together to destigmatize mental illnesses and even help save lives. Join me in taking the promise to check-in on others: