Panel tackles mental health stigma

by Kit Murray

MSUM hosted a mental health panel with professionals from the F-M area to discuss the importance of tending to one’s mental wellbeing.

On Wednesday, psychologists, students  and community members gathered in CMU 101 to openly discuss the stigma surrounding mental health. The panel, consisting of one MSUM student, professionals from Prairie St. Johns, Hendrix Health Center and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, provided insight on utilizing resources in the area.

The panel openly discussed topics of suicide, signs of depression and what happens in a typical therapy session. Before the event began, members of the audience put questions in a box that the panel answered during the hour-long session.

Often times, the stigma surrounding mental health can cause even greater anxiety to those fighting mental health issues. The panel of five women tried to provide self-disclosure by sharing their own experiences and providing their support and professional advice. They explained people who are struggling with mental health want to feel they’re not alone and are going to be okay.

MSUM student Bailey Schumann represented the student body on the panel. Schumann encouraged the audience to join her upcoming peer support group on campus. She believes one important step to dealing with mental health is acceptance.

“No one wants to admit they have a problem but we have to,” Schumann said.   Often times those struggling with mental health issues aren’t sure where to turn. Therapy can be an outlet for some people, but some often refuse to go or are embarrassed by the stigma.

Hendrix Health Center’s Therapeutic Case Manager Nicole Domine wants students to know therapy isn’t as bad or as scary as it may sound.

“They leave and I frequently get, ‘that didn’t suck as bad as I thought it would,’” Domine said. “It isn’t as structured or clinical as people often think it is.”

Having an objective perspective from a therapist may be beneficial. It can be hard to open up to family members or friends, especially if sometimes they are the ones causing the problem.

Schumann wants to help eradicate this by providing support for those who aren’t sure where to turn.

She also opened up about her own personal battles and how important it is to be self-aware.  Schumann encouraged the audience to recognize people are still the same and nothing is wrong with them as the first step to battling the stigma.

“It’s okay to not be okay”is a saying Schumann reminds her friends and family.

Mary Weiler, a representative from North Dakota chapter of the AFSP, shared her story about losing her daughter to suicide and how people can step up and what to say to provide comfort for those in need of help.

“You say, ‘you are not going anywhere, you will be getting help,’” Weiler said. “Stay with that person as long as it takes.”

For college students, it can be a challenge to set aside time to focus on their  mental health while drowning in coursework, extra-curricular activities and jobs. When putting these tasks on top of relationship struggles, it can be difficult to find a balance. That is why professionals have reached out and shown they care. Nothing is wrong with not being okay. Working on themselves rather than their studies all the time is just as important.

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