Ever fleeting and consistently covered by clouds, the moon is as reclusive to see as your typical college student. Suppose one were to think about one of your friends exhibiting atypical behavior, such as reclusiveness. Would you think that the person was exhibiting their normal behavior, or perhaps you might believe that this behavior could be attributed to something else? Something that seems difficult to talk about? If the answer to that question is the latter, then perhaps there is a bigger issue here than meets the eye.
Friends are people who we look to in times of need yet, a common theme amongst most is that despite there being a bond, we generally ignore or are dissuaded from engaging in a conversation about a subject such as mental health. According to the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, many college students are aware of each other’s issues; however, “they simply do not know what to do, or feel that their intervention might make someone worse” (Beresin et. al). These findings indicate a lack of awareness and understanding of how to best help the person you are close to. For this to be rectified, we must examine the current culture of our college students and compare it with what it should be to better assess what needs to be done.
The current culture of college students is centered around the expression of positive emotion and suppression of negative emotion; therefore, it is not a surprise that people feel the need to hide and bundle up all those emotions they perceive as negative. Studies have observed that college students, however not limited solely to college students, generally begin to use a method known as expressive suppression to hide their negative emotions. By definition, expressive suppression is “a form of response modulation that involves inhibiting ongoing emotion-expressive behavior” (Srivastava et. al). In a college setting, it’s the equivalent of consistently having negative emotions but putting on a face that passes off a false idea of happiness and joyful nature.
Other studies have tested this particular type of suppression, concluding that this type of suppression leaves the person with all these negative emotions, as expected, but also decreases the experience of positive emotions. This shows that attempting to hide away all these negative emotions does not do one any favors and leads to the loss of joy in things that one used to think were fun and enjoyable. These behaviors could potentially act as precursors for developing a mental disorder, whether it be anxiety based or depressive, which then places the student into a whole new series of troubles and on a new path that they might not have anticipated ever happening to them. In this case scenario, the student now has two options, suffer alone or work through what they’re going through with a friend. Most students would choose the former, and why? They choose it because they hold the belief that their friend will judge them for something that is out of their hands when in reality, their friend might be the only person who is capable of helping them in a way that takes them out of their shroud of darkness and shows them the light. All that person needs to do is stick their hand out, and maybe, just maybe, someone will grab it.
Our current society does a poor job at explaining what to do when it comes to helping someone suffering from any mental disorder. Thus, if we seek to change the way we see mental health, we need to charter a new course. This change can come in one of three forms: (1) working with your university’s administrative staff to better educate the populace on mental health, (2) increasing access to mental health services, or (3) destigmatizing mental illnesses as a whole. Options one and two would be good if they were effective; however, as time has shown, administrators can be stuck in their ways, and increasing access to mental health services requires money that we perhaps do not have. Therefore, the only option and arguably the best option is to destigmatize mental illness. Why would one think that destigmatizing mental illness would be beneficial? Don’t we live in 2022? Arguably, the most advanced and progressive humanity has ever been and yet we have barely scratched the surface.
Despite all the progress that has been made in favor of mental health, society as a whole still rejects those who have mental illness just as badly as they did back then with the exception that now, it’s in an indirect manner as opposed to the original direct manner that people used to exhibit. People’s discriminatory practices have not changed, they have merely adapted their method of discrimination, leading to the same result. The only way change can occur is if we all work together to destigmatize illness instead of trying to fight administrators for better education on mental illness or for money to create more buildings for mental health centers. This change benefits all of society because it will allow people to express themselves for who they truly are, the good and the bad. In allowing the good and bad to come out, we can live in a society that focuses on increasing availability of mental health treatment, and better education. Still, this change can only occur once we have a united force to fight for everyone.
Beresin, G., Abdu-Glass, E., & Schlozman, S. (n.d.). The College Mental Health Crisis: A call for cultural … The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from https://www.mghclaycenter.org/parenting-concerns/college-mental-health-crisis-call-cultural-change-part-2/
Srivastava, S., Tamir, M., McGonigal, K. M., John, O. P., & Gross, J. J. (2014, August 22). The social costs of emotional suppression: A prospective study of the transition to college. Journal of personality and social psychology. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4141473/