Taking care of mental health

Janet Grado, Staff Writer

The Wayne State College Counseling Center and the student-led group Active Minds are working on destigmatizing mental health. And in the process, both groups are educating people on these sensitive topics.

Destigmatizing mental health is important because of the bad representation it has had in history. Movies have represented people with mental illnesses as being the bad guy, like the serial killer, or kept in an insane asylum far away from society.

Abbey Stewart, a current senior at WSC and president of Active Minds, also sees the same theme on why mental health has been stigmatized.

“I think some of the history and some of the movies created the stigmatization,” Stewart said. “These diseases present themselves in strange ways. In the past they used to put people in a locked-up facility. They picture people in straightjackets. Lack of education, too; people don’t understand that they’re diseases. People are different, so not everyone deals with things the same way.”

Michelle Meyer, a counselor in the Counseling Center, also sees the misinformation that has been passed throughout the ages and can see why there was so much false information.

“There’s such a stigma around mental health because it wasn’t understood,” Meyer said. “And people are afraid of things they don’t understand. It’s been criminalized, moralized and medicalized.”

With all the negativity that has surrounded mental health, the Counseling Center and Active Minds have been trying to turn that around.

“We do events to increase awareness,” Meyer said. “Depression Screening Day was held on Oct. 27 and was our most recent event that we held on campus. We also bring puppies and kittens to campus so students can relax. We’ve also had aqua massagers on campus and ‘Just Words’ events in the halls, to help people realize that words matter. There are also stress balls that we hand out that have an information on there too.”

Earlier this year, Active Minds had their shoe exhibit, in which members of the club laid out 1,100 pairs of shoes. Each pair represents the 1,100 college students who die by suicide every year in America.

“As people walked in that area where all the shoes were set up, it was silent for three days,” Stewart said. “There was no horse playing. It gave us all goosebumps and we were quiet while setting up the shoes.”

Stewart explained that she knew that this could have been a trigger for some people. But she still got good feedback. She had random people asking if she was in Active Minds, and when she said she was people would say that the exhibit was amazing.

One might ask, “Why is there such a focus to educate college students about mental health?”

“Typically you see these disorders start in the early 20s,” Stewart said. “These disorders start at the college age range. You go from you safe home and get put in a new environment. It only makes sense that our mind tries to make sense of it. That’s why it’s important to have Active Minds be on college campuses.”

Since there are such big changes that college students go through, that’s why Wayne State College has a Counseling Center, so students can talk through things.

“I invite people to come and talk to a counselor here,” Meyer said. “Sometimes people don’t realize how heavy what they’re carrying is until they give voice to it.”