Everybody has problems, don’t face them alone

Contessa Van Buskirk, Guest Columnist

“Everybody has problems; you either get over them or you don’t. If you don’t, you choose to take the easy way out of life.”

My dad said this to me shortly after I turned 9 or 10 years old. This was one of the first introductions I had on mental health. I was taught that we all have “problems.”

We all have our “bad days.” That is just how life is, and we need to get over it. We can’t let it drag us down.

When I was 8, I lost my mom suddenly. She was such an inspiration in my life and a person who always chose kindness. I was pushed into counseling at my elementary school and appointed a personal mentor.

My dad didn’t support the counseling. Sometimes he thinks that counselors are the ones that put those ideas or problems in our heads. My dad is an amazing person, but he is from the older generation whose parents went through two world wars and the Great Depression. They were taught to be tough from day one, but being tough clearly isn’t working as a solution for mental health.

Forty seconds – not a lot you can do in forty seconds. You can run a slow 200-meter dash in track, you can melt chocolate in the microwave, but whatever it is, 40 seconds is not much time.

According to the World Health Organization, every 40 seconds, a person commits suicide – that’s almost 800,000 suicides every year. Mental health is usually pushed aside and not taken as serious, as if someone displayed symptoms of the flu. If you aren’t showing symptoms, you are mentally okay, right? That is how mental health is seen right now and we need to change it.

There is a stigma against mental health present in the world we live in today. Sept. 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day. Many high schoolers and college students took to social media to address their opinions. We saw a lot of similar messaging that included, “I hope my friends remember they can talk to me about anything. Nobody should ever have to carry their burdens on their own. Please normalize talking about mental health.”

While these messages flooded social media platforms, it only lasted on that day. It’s seen as an opportunity on an official day, but when the next day comes, the mental health conversation disappears again.

We are dealing with a strong stigma right here, on UNI’s own campus. A UNI student that has attended UNI for three years has utilized UNI’s free student health services for her mental health, and like many others, received nothing.

“I believe that people fear what they don’t know. Many people do not educate themselves on what mental health is and the difference types people can have. It still has not been normalized to openly talk about mental health illnesses or counseling, and until it has been normalized for men, women, young and old, there will still be a stigma.”

When she first came to UNI, she seeked help from the health clinic. She has bipolar disorder and wanted to be proactive. The online form takes an hour to fill out, and you tell a counselor what you want out of sessions. When the student tried to return to the clinic the next semester, the clinic wanted a new assessment. When she explained her bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, they said she had a misinterpretation of wellness coaching, and that was the real service needed.

“After winter break, I tried again in the spring semester. The clinic wanted a third assessment, so I did not call back. I will not call back again. It was a dark part of my life, and the UNI clinic turned their backs on me.”

It’s okay to not be okay. Understanding mental health is more than just checking up on a friend. There are tools, treatments and professionals who are waiting for you to ask for help.

Mental health is everyday health. It needs to be affordable and accessible like any other health services. Most students cannot afford professional counseling, but most students need it. There needs to be an open communication of mental health in schools.

Right here at UNI, they need more counselors that understand different types of mental health issues. Talking about mental health helps people from bottling-up their emotions and problems and becoming another 40 second statistic.