Stigma surrounding mental illnesses endures

Courtney Fisher, 22, has sought out counseling to help cope with anxiety.

By Ariel Thomas |

Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses are common among college students, yet the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that only 60 percent seek help. Reasons vary as to why this age group is reluctant to get help, but some researchers suggest that it could be due to the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“I can definitely see there being a stigma,” said Torii Nolen, a Flagler College student who suffers from anxiety. “Just this idea that I’m not like everybody else, obviously there’s something wrong with me.”

But Nolen doesn’t think the stigma surrounding mental illnesses is coming from her peers.

“I don’t know if it’s as much in college-age students but perhaps from older people, like there’s this concern that your parents will think there’s something wrong with you, or your older family members,” Nolen said. “But I feel like as a group of people around our age don’t see that stigma because it’s much more common.”

She’s right. Mental illness among college students is common. One in four students have a diagnosable mental illness.

A Penn State study found that anxiety is now the leader in mental illness found in college students, surpassing depression. Health professionals have collected more statistics surrounding this study, including the percentages of how many students thought that anxiety was affecting their school performance, or the students having trouble sleeping due to their anxiety.

Courtney Fisher, another student at Flagler, is no stranger to these effects.

“When I was a sophomore in college I started having a lot of panic attacks,” Fisher said. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Then I realized I had a problem with anxiety. It was brought on by school and I think being away from home.”

Fisher noted she had a hard time sleeping and would find herself frazzled over social situations, as well as dealing with her workload at school.

“Taking six classes triggered it a little bit,” Fisher said of what might have been the tipping point to her problem. “That’s kind of common for education majors, taking six classes at once.”

Courtney Fisher, 22, has sought out counseling to help cope with anxiety.

Courtney Fisher, 22, has sought out counseling to help cope with anxiety.

However, Fisher doesn’t believe there’s a stigma surrounding mental illnesses on campus. In some ways, she agrees with how the college community reacts to the issues their peers are suffering through.

“I think a lot of students at our college are accepting,” Fisher said. “A lot of people are open about it.”

Seeking out help, she went to the counseling services offered on campus, and the program helped her get back in control.

“I was scared,” Fisher said. “I didn’t like having attacks and my family encouraged me to go to counseling and see the doctor. And also I wanted to be able to enjoy college and not be tied down by anxiety and panic attacks.”

Fisher was also encouraged by her family to get help, which not every student can count on. Research found that students experiencing lower quality social support are more likely to undergo depressive symptoms than their higher quality counterparts, possibly making these students more unwilling to get help.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Be the first to comment on "Stigma surrounding mental illnesses endures"

Leave a comment