Combating the Stigma of Mental Health Through Awareness

Staff and students create opportunity for peers to improve their mental health and better the greater community

Bella Walters, Staff Writer

  A mental health awareness meeting was held in the Library and Media Center (LMC) with librarian Genevieve Minor as one of the coordinators. The meeting, while just setting up what the group’s purpose is, opened up the opportunity for more meetings to take place, with clear goals in mind for future gatherings.

  “We’re trying to recruit a group of students that are passionate about different mental health issues, like depression, or learning about identifying the signs of suicide, to have suicide prevention support systems for all different kinds of mental health,” Minor said.

  The students chosen to be part of the group were a combination of students who seemed passionate about mental health awareness or students who seemed like they would be open to more information about the subject, one of the students being junior Allison Sheets.

  “Mental health is a very important thing to me and I want to help destigmatize it around the school. I’ve dealt with my own mental health problems and I want to be able to make sure others can seek the help they need,” Sheets said.

  One of the main reasons mental health has undergone increased discussion is to reduce the shamefulness associated with it. Because of certain inaccurate stereotypes, some students feel that the mental struggles they have aren’t worth bringing up when in reality, recognition of problems people may have can feel validating.

  “In 10th grade, I struggled a lot with depression and spent most of my time laying in bed and not wanting to get up. I dreaded going to school because I didn’t want to be around others. I went into a stage of isolation and it was not a good coping mechanism. I fell behind in class and lost all the close friends I had. If I would’ve had a group like this, I would’ve felt more loved and I would’ve felt like somebody noticed what I was going through. When I was missing school, no one reached out. With someone to check in on you, you feel appreciated and acknowledged,” Sheets said. 

  The group provides a support system for students while additionally providing a sense of community, letting students know they don’t have to be isolated in their struggle.

  “Fifty percent of people develop some sort of mental illness by the age [of] 14, yet we still don’t talk about it. The point of peer-to-peer is to make sure everyone is heard and for people to know that feeling what you are feeling is okay, and it is common. You are not alone,” Sheets said.