There is a stigma of people who suffer from mental illness in America. It is difficult to find help and treatment due to a number of reasons, and a hard subject to approach for some.
The Mental Health Awareness Club at RCTC is hoping to help students with some of that.
Club president Prakash Peethambaram explains that the group is there to advance the public discourse surrounding mental health. To do that, the group brings in experts from the community and has been working with many RCTC stakeholder groups to pursue support options for students.
The club has been around for more than a year; Peethambaram started it because he wanted to help advocate for mental health support.
“We’re trying to fill a need we feel isn’t on campus,” Peethambaram says. “We hold events, we get people aware about it [mental health], we advocate for people.”
The importance of mental health support can’t be understated. The American Psychological Association published a report in September 2018 stating that one in three college freshmen in schools across the globe reported experiencing a mental health disorder.
“It’s a much-needed club,” RCTC instructor and club advisor Ruth Casper, Ph.D., said. “Right now, rates of depression and anxiety are increasing among college-aged students. One recent study that polled practicing psychologists showed an 83 percent increase in the diagnosis of anxiety for 18-25-year-olds.
“Mental health issues affect students’ ability to concentrate on coursework, follow through with assignments, and ultimately stay in college. Also, unfortunately, it’s during the ages of 18-25 when a lot of mental illnesses rear their head. It’s a time of great stress – gaining more independence, deciding if you can live on your own, etc. So obviously, having some outlet on campus where students can discuss mental health issues is crucial.”
While the club can’t provide any professional services, it does help in other ways.
“So, the timing of this club is perfect,” Casper said. “The club right now is really focused on spreading the word that there is a club, recruiting members, and offering mental health forums. Last fall, we brought in guest speakers from the community; last spring, we presented a forum where RCTC students talked about their struggles with mental illness. During the club meetings, we talk about planning for events and eat snacks.”
If you’re not a part of the club, or don’t want to join, there are things to pay attention to.
Peethambaram wants students to pay attention if they feel a change in sleep or appetite. He urges students to chat with RCTC counselors Greg Wright or Deb Vang, or anyone on campus to get pointed to professional help.
“There should not be any hesitation to get help,” Peethambaram says.
One of the clubs upcoming major events will be on Oct. 9 at 12:20 p.m. in the Hill Theater. Members of the Olmsted County Crisis Prevention team will be presenting. So too will some members from Winona State to talk about how to approach future education goals.
It’s a good place to start in addition to club meetings if you’re looking for support and information.
RCTC does have a plan in motion as well.
“Mental illness and mental health is something that touches us all,” Michael Anthony, Vice President of Student Affairs, said. “RCTC is committed to supporting our students in partnership with our student leadership by helping to reduce the stigma around mental illness and increasing our capacity to serve students on campus and in the community.”