Students Speak Out: Mental Health Edition

Today’s student spokesperson is Emily Jacobs, a third year Sociology major and Professional Writing minor at UCSB. She has previously worked with Professor Cissy Ross on a feature project titled: “Defining Happiness: What Are We Really in Pursuit of?”. The project consisted of research centered around the discrepancy between the pursuit of happiness and what we actually define as happiness, and included a case study of a local woman with Bipolar Disorder. Emily wishes to spread the word about mental health advocacy, and wants to create a community where everyone feels safe and connected.

Students, it has come to my attention, through my research on mood and mood disorders, that nearly 80% of college students report being affected by daily stress and anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) also reports that 34% has felt depressed in the last three months. These are staggering statistics, and ones that demand immediate attention.

We live in one of the most beautiful places in the country, and yet we are unable to fully take advantage of our surroundings. Perhaps this is because most of us who are suffering are unwilling to be open and honest with our peers. I know how difficult it is to divulge your mental health secrets, and the shame that comes along with admitting that your brain chemistry is not all there. It is not something any of us can control, and yet people continue to tout remedies like “cheering up” and “positive thinking”. Those with Bipolar Disorder, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. must stand together, and work toward a community where there are no more of these stigmas and quick fixes. It is our duty to educate those who do not understand these invisible illnesses.

Students, if 80% of us are struggling with stress, why are we doing it alone? Why are we scared of admitting that our health is not where we want it to be, and it is negatively affecting the education that we pay so dearly for? I am writing this to let you know that you are not alone. You are not alone, and there are resources on campus that are dedication to providing a campus community that ensures the health an well-being of every students. Chancellor Yang recently accepted a business proposal for a new and improved Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) building. These improvements include a building renovation, hiring a team of certified psychologists, integrating group therapy sessions, and workshops geared toward education and busting stigma. With this center, Chancellor Yang and UCSB has taken an important step towards mental health advocacy and acceptance. Students who are suffering will be able to have numerous avenues of help at their disposal, and our accredited counseling services will be unparalleled.

Here is another statistic from the ADAA: 9% of students surveyed have seriously considered suicide in the last year. 9% of our peers feel that their current situation is hopeless enough that suicide is a viable option. These are our friends, and they need our help. These are the people who are suffering in silence, afraid to admit that they need help. While college is naturally going to be a stressful time of transition and hard classes, it should not affect our lives to the point where it is severely detrimental to our health.

So, I am here to ask you to help me make a change. I want to bring down the walls between those who suffer from mental illnesses and those who do not by fostering a community of acceptance and education. You can help by sharing your story, letting others know that they are not alone and that there is help out there. Write a blog, an article for the Nexus, or even an open letter like this one. Spread the word that this is a problem, and we will not stand for the continued suffering of ourselves and our peers. Take advantage of places like CAPS and Student Health, where there are teams of professionals to help your journey toward a happier college experience. Most importantly, do not be afraid to be there for somebody, or to have somebody be there for you. We are in this together, and it is up to us to change the future of mental health.

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