Stigmas about mental health care keep some Cal State Fullerton students from seeking help

In Campus News, News
(Anita Huor / Daily Titan)

College students are no stranger to anxiety and emotional distress, even if it doesn’t always show on the surface.

“When any of those (feelings) begin to impact the quality of your life, the quality of your education, the quality of your relationships, it’s time talk to somebody about it,” said Susan Leavy, Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) counselor.

Cal State Fullerton’s CAPS offers services and wellness programs, but that doesn’t mean students will take advantage of those opportunities, especially with the stigmas surrounding mental health.

Those who might need mental support may be discouraged to seek professional help because of the stigmas that are embedded within cultures, communities or personal fears and anxieties that hold people back from talking to a professional.

Stigmas are associated with feelings of embarrassment, shame and a fear of being judged. This has prevented over half of the adult population in the U.S. from getting treatment, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI).

“Often people who are not informed will think that if they’re getting mental health care they’re crazy or there is something seriously wrong with them … They’re so fearful of being judged that they will avoid paying attention to their mental health,” Leavy said.

It’s important for people to know the signs of when to receive help for their mental health concerns and to learn proper coping mechanisms so they can get back to feeling like themselves. Constant/consistent periods of feeling sad, problems concentrating, low energy, and abuse of substances are a few signs of a mental health problem, according to NAMI.

Ashley Salazar, President of CSUF’S Active Minds club, believes in the importance of stigma reduction and taking the time to understand mental health. Her approach to tackling the everyday battles of the stresses that college students face focuses on self-care.

“For me, self-care is something that is healthy and that allows you to de-stress,” Salazar said. “Something that kind of allows you to take a step back and ground yourself.”

Whether it’s watching a new Netflix series or taking a stroll through the park, anything that helps a student relax can be a positive outlet.

For students looking to learn more about mental health, Active Minds aims to remove stigmas surrounding mental illness. However, Salazar wants students to understand that although the club can be a good support system, that it’s not group therapy and the officers are informed advocates, not healthcare professionals.

Before taking on the position of Active Minds events coordinator, Jeffrey Liu said he had a hard time seeking direct services when it came to personal mental-health struggles.

Liu, who came from a predominantly Asian-American community, said the stigma of mental health was a barrier within his culture.

“When someone has issues with mental health, a lot of parents or family members might believe that it actually brings bad luck to the family or might cause other issues,” Liu said.

He also explained how collectivism plays a role as a barrier to addressing mental health within the Asian culture, because cultures that hold collectivistic values are more likely to view themselves and their characteristics as connected to others.

“When the individual is undergoing personal issues, including their mental health, it’s often looked down upon” Liu said.

Fear can be a predominant barrier when it comes to taking the next step toward getting help and breaking through the stigma behind taking action like seeing a CAPS counselor on campus or attending a Wellness Workshop.

“I think a lot of people do go through things and are scared to reach out. My advice would just be to be bold, be brave and to know that there are people here to help you, especially at Cal State Fullerton. They are professionals, they are nonjudgmental and they will get you the help that you need,” Salazar said.

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