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No shame in asking for help; it could save your life

Staff Columnist

Published: Monday, April 8, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

Erik could not wait to get back onto campus. That wasn’t because he was excited to see his friends, or to party. No. Coming to campus was an escape. Being at home constantly reminded Erik of his recent split with his hometown girlfriend. Everything from the small coffee shop they used to hang out in, to the rooms in his house where they used to spend time brought heart-sinking feelings that could not be shaken.

After graduating high school, Erik and his girlfriend Sarah broke up. Sarah didn’t want to try a long distance relationship, while Erik wanted to give it a shot. In the end, it wasn’t enough to convince her. Even though Erik was heart-broken, he understood why being apart during college would help both of them grow as people and lead them to new experiences. However, it didn’t cushion the blow.

On top of his personal struggles, Erik was facing other issues as well. As an underclassman, he was confused with what to study. His entire high school career Erik “knew” he was going to be a doctor. The pay was good, he liked helping people, and it was a “respectable” profession. Moreover, his parents were supportive of the decision. Therefore, Erik didn’t explore many other options in high school. He thought that medicine was the route for him. However, as soon as he came to college, he started having second thoughts. He realized that there are other ways of helping people that may be more appealing to him. As a result of this realization, his effort in his classes greatly declined and his grades ultimately suffered.

This change of heart hurt his parents greatly, and fueled many arguments between them. These arguments brought other issues between Erik and his parents to the surface and, ultimately, created a mess.

Now, obviously, there are other people in this world who have larger issues than relationship problems or fighting with their parents. But in Erik’s mind, in Erik’s world, everything was crumbling around him. All of these issues were piling up, and he didn’t know how to handle it.

Luckily, Erik did something that most college students or other young people do not have courage to do. He asked for help. Instead of internalizing and avoiding his issues, Erik sought therapy.

Most students on any campus find it difficult to find guidance and support. Unfortunately, finances or other technicalities are not what usually hold students back. The social stigma associated with mental health issues on university campuses is crippling. Society is told that it is seen as weak to get help, and that it reflects negatively on you as a person. However, not only is this view crippling for those already afflicted with mental health issues or mental health disorders, it is also detrimental to the rest of society that will face these issues later in their lives who will not do anything about it simply because society has told them not to.

According to the 2006 National College Health Assessment, “43.8 percent of the 94,806 students surveyed reported they ‘felt so depressed it was difficult to function’ during the past year, and 9.3 percent said that they had ‘seriously considered suicide’ during the year.” Additionally, “…more than 30percent of all college freshman report feeling overwhelmed a great deal of the time college women, even more (about 38 percent).” Unfortunately, according to Active Minds, a national non-profit organization designed to combat mental health illnesses in universities, only 25 percent of those afflicted with mental issues seek help.

By “seeking help,” I don’t mean check yourself into a mental health hospital. Clearly, there are instances where that is appropriate, but for the vast majority of college students, aid and support can be found much more easily on campus. This includes simply coming to terms with the fact that you’re not okay and talking with a close friend. Maybe join some of the organizations on campus including Active Minds. Furthermore, our university has a wonderful program called the Humphrey Clinic where graduate students in the counseling program are available for therapy sessions to anyone in the Storrs community.

Of course, there are many other healthy ways to deal with a mental issue. I am not endorsing one method of recovery over another, but what I am endorsing is for you, because I know you’re out there, is to take a step in the right direction.

Erik did. I did. You can, too.  

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