Negative stigmas should be removed from mental health issues

It should not take metallic flags shining in the sun to make the world more aware of mental health issues.

The Counseling Center ended Suicide Awareness Month in September by having students write encouraging notes to place on the Quad, raising awareness about suicide. They revealed to students that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.

Suicide and mental health are too important to recognize only occasionally or when tragedy strikes. The brain may be hidden inside the human skull, but it should not stay hidden. Mental health issues should be addressed openly and cease having a negative stigma. 

The Affordable Care Act is a major step in improving how mental health is addressed publicly and in the health care industry. But it will still be a struggle until the stigma is finally neutralized.

It is easy to sympathize with people when you can see their injuries, such as a broken leg. But if you cannot see the hurt, it seems alien and uncomfortable. People could look completely happy on the exterior. 

They could be a college student with long-lasting friends, with a significant other, someone who gets decent grades in their major or who has a family to support them. But sometimes that happiness is a front.

Recognizing mental illness can seem just as difficult to admit to yourself, and that is a problem. 

Because society makes mental illness have a negative stigma, that makes people resist admitting that they are dealing with a mental health problem. No one should be trapped inside their own body. 

From a personal perspective, it can be struggle to admit, even if it is as “minor” as anxiety or depression. But once admission is made, there is relief. 

Anyone could have mental health issues. 

The issue surrounds us. A young boy is struggling in class from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A parent tries to pinpoint their autistic child’s specific needs. A woman shies away from her mirror every day from an eating disorder. A man with his dream job and family suffers from depression. A soldier returning home endures post-traumatic stress disorder. A mother of a newborn baby struggles with postpartum depression.

Odds are, each of these people have a friend to lean on and vent to through their stressful time. 

And if a medical condition like this is so expansive, then it is bewildering how miniscule it is treated in the grand scheme of things.

But what are the chances that the friend will suggest they get psychiatric care? Because of stigma currently attached to mental health, medical care is shied away from. The person thinks he can tough it out. But there’s no need to fight the medical need when care is available.

President Barack Obama is addressing that pressing issue. His fiscal year 2014 budget is aiding teachers in identifying students struggling with the issue, investing in state-based programs to improve outcomes of mental health in youth and training 5,000 additional mental health professionals with an emphasis on serving students and young adults. His involvement extends to the Affordable Care Act.

Before the ACA, people may have been wary of visiting psychiatrists and doctors because of the stigma affecting their future health care coverage. 

When I was in high school, I visited a psychiatrist about depression. I would cry every day, not wanting to do anything or interact with anyone, a common symptom of depression.

My parents knew something had to be done, and we consulted a psychiatrist. After my appointment, the psychiatrist pulled my parents aside. The psychiatrist said that once the diagnosis of depression was in my records, I could be denied mental health care insurance coverage in the future. 

Having a health care provider deny someone coverage for pre-existing conditions goes against what health care is meant to do: aid people for their health conditions. This is especially troublesome for someone as young as a teenager. Luckily my parents fought the stigma. They knew that mental health is a serious concern.

The stigma could brand people for their entire lives, deterring them from getting help in the future. It becomes too political, not wanting to spend money or take on “risky” clients. It leaves nowhere for those truly in need to go. Until now.

According to an entry on The White House Blog by Cecilia Muñoz: “New health plans are now required to cover preventive services like depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no additional cost. And starting in 2014, “insurance companies will no longer be able to deny health care coverage to anyone because of a pre-existing mental health condition.”

The ACA will take time to change people’s minds about society’s perception of mental health, just as it will take time to provide aid to minds suffering from mental illnesses, but at least the public is beginning to become aware.

Rebecca is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]