Mental illness and its effects on the campus community

Photo from Pixabay

By Jake Allen, Managing Editor 

Mental illness has become increasingly common among college campuses, ultimately leading to the death of many students. According to National Data on campus suicide and depression, one in every 12 U.S. college students makes a suicide plan.

Fisher students celebrated the strength of those struggling with mental illness on Oct. 10 in conjunction with “World Mental Health Day.” A series of events and presentations, which were sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, were held throughout the day as a way to educate and also create discussion regarding the effects of mental illness.

Dr. Ryan Thibodeau, associate professor of psychology, gave a presentation, “Mental Illness Stigma,” which explored the causes and symptoms of mental illness and how the community can help fight it.  

“Historically, people with psychiatric struggles have been regarded as very different from ‘normal’ people,” said Thibodeau. “I think that this way of looking at things is fundamentally wrong. People who struggle with even serious psychiatric problems are not that different, they’re our family members, our friends, our neighbors, our classmates and so on.”

Thibodeau teaches psychology courses at Fisher and teaches students ways to reverse the negative stigma associated with individuals who identify themselves as having a mental illness. Through his lectures and presentations, Thibodeau hopes to provide educational opportunities for students that will enhance their learning as well as create more of a discussion regarding the topic of mental health.

“Another important part of my class, PSYC 211: Society and Mental Illness, is that students get to meet and interact with people with a wide variety of psychiatric struggles,” said Thibodeau. “I think these kinds of positive, productive encounters with people in psychiatric distress are important for lots of reasons, but maybe mostly because they do so much to shatter damaging, false stereotypes.”

Senior Jessica Ricciardi attended the day of celebration and described how her mental illness has impacted her college career. Being diagnosed with multiple illnesses including borderline personality disorder, anxiety and depression, Riccardi struggles with balancing her course load and personal life.

“I have an extremely hard time doing my work because a lot of the time my mind is preoccupied with something I’m struggling with, which at times feels like I am struggling with everything,” said Ricciardi.

Mental illness is something that many students deal with, making it difficult to juggle class work, spend time with friends and feel happy in life. College campuses, much like Fisher have been implementing programs and events to aid the discussion of mental illness.

“I think if the college did more with the campus in helping reduce the stigma, people would be more willing to get help,” said Ricciardi. “If the stigma doesn’t decrease anywhere or even just on this campus alone, it may hinder the possibility of saving someone’s life.”

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