New club changing conversation about mental health: Students fight mental health stigma by starting dialogue

By Drew Brinker

Staff Writer

ìIf we can create an environment that encourages people to share their stories and get help, the world would be a better place.î ~ Anonymous

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a one-in-four chance of being diagnosed with a mental illness. Furthermore, more than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed with a mental illness in the past year alone.

These statistics are alarming and endless, proving that mental illness is prevalent on college campuses. But what does this mean, and how does this affect students?

Research shows that mental health is directly correlated to academic success. Anxiety and depression, cited as the most common mental health illnesses among college students, are the most impeding to academic performance.

To support this argument, 64 percent of young adults who are no longer attending college attribute their disenrollment to depression, and 50 percent have felt overwhelming anxiety. If so many students are suffering from mental illness, what can be done to help them?

Prakash Peethambaram, president of the Mental Illness Awareness Club, has been working diligently with faculty and administration to advocate for students and create a solution for the lack of mental health services at RCTC.

To prove this point, the Mental Illness Awareness Club hosted a mental health discussion forum on May 2 in Hill Theatre. Seven students who deal with mental illness presented their stories and encouraged others to talk about mental health with family and friends.

Michael Anthony, RCTCís Vice President of Student Affairs, and community member Regina Mustafa also spoke about their personal struggles and what they feel the community needs to do for students.

According to Peethambaram, ì[RCTC] can improve mental health on campus by recruiting a licensed therapist whose sole responsibility is to see students for regular sessions and emergencies every school day. We also need to extend the availability of the nurse practitioner so that they can prescribe medications ó at a low cost ó to more students.î

To continue working toward a solution, Peethambaram needs the support of the students. If any student has been affected by mental health or knows someone who has, they are encouraged to reach out to their student representatives and join the Mental Illness Awareness Club to show that they support the mission of having mental health services here at RCTC. By getting involved, students can change the way that people see, hear and talk about mental health.

ìI view mental illness as a disease that can be treated,î Peethambaram said. ìPeople with mental illnesses are some of the most productive members of society, and you wouldnít be able to distinguish them from what society calls ënormal people.íî