Mental Health Stigma in Higher Education
College can be an exciting time to try new things and make connections that will hopefully last a lifetime. But for people who struggle with mental health issues, pursuing higher education can be a daunting feat, in part due to mental health stigma. And although some universities work to prioritize the mental health of students, in 2022, many institutions still fall short in providing students with adequate resources to promote mental wellness.1
Students Getting Higher Education and Mental Health Stigma
My Experience with Mental Health Services in College
Although our early 20s can be a period of hope and freedom, it is important to acknowledge that many people with mental health disorders begin experiencing the onset of these disorders in their early 20s, myself included.2
It wasn't until the summer before my senior year of college that I began experiencing symptoms of depression. That said, the following semester, I began to explore the mental health services available at my University, and what I found was astonishing.
I was shocked by appointment wait times up to three months -- an entire semester -- to see a counselor. Additionally, there was little to no information on the Health Center website geared towards mental health. My findings conveyed an evident lack of University acknowledgment for students facing mental health issues. In my opinion, support is the bare minimum, and for universities to play an impactful role in mitigating mental health stigma on college campuses, first, they must acknowledge mental health struggles exist.
How Students Are Tackling Stigma
Although my University may have fallen short in providing adequate mental health resources, students are not as easily deterred. I was delighted to see student-run organizations promoting mental wellness on campus. In a school of almost 45,000 people, I was comforted to know I was not alone in my struggle.
Why Universities Must Act -- and Fast -- on Mental Health Stigma
According to a study conducted by UCLA sociology professor S. Micheal Gaddis:
In a time when mental health disorders among college students are on the rise, universities must work harder to cultivate a culture of awareness and acceptance regarding mental health.4 In my experience, it is hard enough to ask for help, and when people are in an environment with a strong stigma against mental health treatment, these fears are only amplified. If more universities work to mitigate stigma from the top down, it is likely students will benefit and feel more accepted. I know I would have appreciated feeling more seen by my University, and I hope the next generation will be given this regard.
- Bonilla J. and McMahon A., "Addressing the Shortage of Mental Health Services on College Campuses." HCM Strategists, January 2020.
- John Hopkins Medicine, "Mental Health Disorder Statistics." Accessed January 26, 2022.
- Wolf, J., "Study Shows Stigma Around Mental Health on Campus Correlates with Students Not Seeking Treatment." UCLA, January 2018.
- Abdu-Glass, E. et al., "The College Mental Health Crisis: A Call for Culture Change -- Part 2." The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, Accessed January 26, 2022.
Jack, J. (2022, February 3). Mental Health Stigma in Higher Education, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, October 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2022/2/mental-health-stigma-in-higher-education