One organization on campus is trying to eliminate stigmas and raise acceptance for those who suffer from mental illnesses.
One in 10 students visit the counseling center to treat a mental illness or are suffering from a problem but do not seek help, counseling center director Rosemary Simmons said.
Kelsey Schuler, a junior from Joliet studying psychology and president of Active Minds, a two-month-old registered student organization focused on raising awareness about how mental illness affects students. Schuler said she helped create the group because she thinks students need to know where to go when they need help coping with illnesses.
Sarah Kertz, psychology assistant professor and Active Minds faculty advisor, said people with mental illnesses do not seek help when they need it, so they do not live their life to the fullest.
“Sadly, many individuals don’t get the treatments they need and even when they do, many suffer for years and years before seeing a treatment provider,” Kertz said.
Caroline Davis, organization member and sophomore from Cary studying psychology, said people often consider mental illnesses as abnormal, a label that only hurts those who really need treatment.
“There are many people out there that think if a person has depression or anxiety that they are weird,” Davis said. “A lot of people hide their mental illnesses because of that.”
Organization members try to inform students that making light of mental illnesses creates stigmas, she said.
“People joke about mental illnesses and will say things like ‘I’m going to kill myself’ when they are stressed out about an exam or something,” Davis said. “They think it doesn’t affect or trigger people.”
Schuler said the best thing to do for people with mental illnesses is to not treat them any differently than others. If a person with a mental illness feels like their family and friends understand their situation, they are more likely to get help, she said.
Several Active Minds members said they have experienced mental illness firsthand and were therefore influenced to join the organization.
Alex Willis, Active Minds member and junior from Arnold, Mo., studying psychology, said her close friend had mental illness who did not receive support when in dire need of help.
“One of my best friends tried committing suicide, and many of her friends were not there for her because they thought her suicide was too much for them to deal with,” Willis said. “We want to put it out there that it is okay and that they can talk about it.”
Briana Redding, organization member and freshman from Chicago studying psychology, said her family has been affected by mental illness — both of her parents have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Redding has witnessed a lack a knowledge about mental illnesses and their role in people’s lives, she said.
As far as joining the organization goes, Davis said anyone can join if they are interested in spreading the word about mental health’s importance.
“Anyone can join whether they are affected by mental illnesses or not,” she said. “It is important to let people know you support them.”
Students who plan on entering a career that will require them to interact with a variety of people should be educated about mental illnesses, Davis said.
“People involved with psychology, human resources or just any major that involves human services could be interested in joining because it appeals to their future career,” she said. “We are trying to better humanity.”
Active Minds meets every Monday in the student center’s Thebes room. Schuler can be reached for more information about joining the RSO at [email protected]