College students with depression who feel isolated and reluctant to talk about their condition now have a platform where they can openly speak about eliminating the stigma associated with mental health problems. As George White reports, at Pierce College in Los Angeles students are sharing their stories of struggle around depression. The programs at Pierce are part of New America Media’s #Feel Better campaign, which supports the sharing of stories by college students struggling with depression in order to increase awareness of mental health issues and the resources available through the college for dealing with them.
Over decades, a growing body of research has documented the stigma attached to mental health issues. As White reports, “Studies show that a large percentage of college students with depression are isolated, reluctant to talk about their condition and too ashamed to seek treatment.” Thus, for example, a national study by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness and yet there is little discussion of this. A study in 2012 by the National Alliance on Mental Health found that almost 73 percent of students living with a mental health condition experience a mental health crisis on campus.
Part of the #Feel Better campaign was an open platform to discuss these issues without the usual stigma. One speaker who stood out was Richie Zamora, who said talking about depression doesn’t just help those struggling with it, but also helps the wider community. Clinical therapist Niaz Khani said it is important to know some of the warning signs of depression, which can include poor concentration, feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem, guilt, contemplation of suicide, and difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
Our culture sends us messages that it is better to hide your feelings and not to discuss depressive thoughts . Pierce College has chosen to take a different path by breaking the silence on student depression. Creating an opportunity to openly dialogue through a forum where each college student can speak about their ways of dealing with depression is a useful tool. Making space in these open forums where much of the audience may be dealing with the same problems can help them see that they are not the only ones with depression. “We need to stop the progression of depression,” Beth Benne, director of the Pierce College Student Health Center, told the 150 Pierce students at the forum. “We need to eliminate the stigma.”
George White, “College Breaks the Silence on Student Depression Crisis.” New America Media, October 25, 2015, http://newamericamedia.org/2015/10/college-breaks-the-silence-on-student-depression-crisis.php.
Student Research: Kenny Rodriguez (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)