Mental health has been a topic most people avoid, but now more than ever, it’s a topic that needs to be addressed. This month is known as Nation Suicide Prevention and Awareness month, and it’s the perfect time to address the topic and to end the stigma of mental health. In my opinion, we need a complete overhaul of our mental health system, but first we need to address the stigma.

Mental health is a conversation that is starting to gain momentum both in society and in politics. New organizations and activist groups are popping up to help calm down the stigma of mental health, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness also known as NAMI. 

NAMI helps communities offer better resources to help educate the community and advocate for better resources. They are giving a voice to the people that have long been stigmatized just for not being okay.

NAMI compiled a 2016 report made by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Justice into statistical facts. According to these reports, 50.6 percent of U.S. youth, aged 6-17, received medical help pertaining to mental health. Suicide is also the second leading cause of death in U.S. citizens aged 10-34. 

The facts show mental health illness is on the rise, and the CDC just released their report on mental health amid the pandemic entitled “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020.” The basics of the reports state there has been an increase of mental health conditions.

The report states 40 percent of adults have reported to be struggling with mental health or substance abuse. Of that 40 percent, 31 percent reported dealing with anxiety or depression symptom, 26 percent are dealing with trauma symptoms and 11 percent are dealing with serious thoughts of suicide. The report suggests a link to trauma symptoms stemming from COVID-19 and 74.9 percent of the participants are between the ages of 18 to 24 years old.

Now here is the real question, are college student’s mental health actually being looked after? If you were to ask me a year ago, I would have said no. I am a very strong advocate for mental health awareness, and I have read several peer reviewed journals and articles, and all I saw was the stigma society placed onto people who came out as having a mental health condition or being a survivor of mental health.

The stigma went deep, so deep, it seeped into our legal system. The stigma turns ordinary human beings into ones who have no rights to a certain extent, to something other than human. 

This has to be the first thing society has to address to help the mental health system. By ending the stigma, more people will be more willing to ask for help. More people will be more willing to talk about mental health.

Talk to them as normal people and stop using words that put people down. They are survivors and warriors; their battle is harder than most people will ever understand. Treat them as such, not as someone who is weak or a victim.

Now let’s look at mental health on Tech campus. When it comes to mental health, Texas Tech offers a handful of resources for its students. As always, please check the resources websites or call the facilities to learn how they are operating during this time.

Tech has the Student Wellness center, the most widely known and used facility to help with mental health. On the second floor we have a hidden gem that Tech students rarely use, The MindSpa, which  offers message chairs and a place to relax and recharge for students. They also have videos and resources to help with meditation and breathing exercises.

The next best thing is the Counseling Center on the second floor of the Student Wellness Center, which is free. This is a great resource to use because they are overseen by staff who have studied or are studying the field of counseling. Sounds great, right? 

They offer walk-in appointments that may last an hour or two but if you want another scheduled appointment, you may have to wait three to six weeks. During that time, a student’s mental health can go from being stable to critical. To supplement the wait, Tech offers counselors in the Human Science buildings at a low cost.

Now with COVID-19 and everything moving to a virtual platform, Student Wellness has done the same thing. They now offer virtual mental health visits and an online application to help with anxiety called TAO.

Looking at all the resources available to students on campus, it is my opinion, that Texas Tech is doing the best they can, but there are still areas it could improve upon. There are not enough resources for students going through this rough journey in their lives, especially with the fears of COVID-19 looming over them.

I urge all students to please reach out to the resources available to you. Here is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Chat: 800-799-4889. 

Asking for help does not mean you are weak, it means you realize you just need a little help to get through a tough time. You are valued, and you are needed. 

Students are living in an unprecedented time of uncertainty. Now is the time for Tech and the rest of the world to address mental health and revamp the system to better accommodate the rise of mental health conditions in adults and children.

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