Seeking Help In Spite Of Stigma

Two males sitting on stairs talking


When media coverage is being spread like wild fire after a tragedy, it is difficult to process through the way the tragedies make you feel as a bystander. It is easy for events, such as the Florida school shooting, to evoke emotions such as sadness, frustration, and even anger that more can’t be done. Without working through those emotions they can fester and grow, making them more difficult to work out later. With the frequency that publicized traumatic events occur, it can be difficult to reach out for help. There is often an additional accompaniment of increased stigmatization of individuals with mental health needs following events such as the one mentioned above.

This increased stigma, in combination with increased negative emotions, can create a situation in which individuals are afraid to seek help when it is most crucial to do so. Thankfully on Kutztown’s college campus there are many avenues one can follow to seek the assistance that they need. First and foremost it is important to highlight the effectiveness of interactions with friends. Sometimes intensive therapy is the answer, but sometimes speaking through your concerns with a trusted family member or friend can lead to a great deal of insight. We can’t expect our friends to be our counselors, but they are often great at providing a safe place to talk about your emotions and engaging in conversation about it.

Another avenue could be seeking assistance from the Campus Counseling Center. This allows you to speak to those employed with the intent to assist students on campus with mental health needs. It is a confidential service with up to six free sessions. A third option is seeking assistance from an outside agency, such as participating in talk therapy, psychiatric services, or engaging other areas of need. The American College Health Association found in a study that two thirds of students who are struggling with mental health symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and mood swings, do not seek treatment. There is a growing number of individuals developing mental health needs, as well as increasing stigma surrounding events as mentioned above.

If it is not you that is feeling deterred from seeking assistance, there is a large likelihood that one of your peers could be in that position. This is where observation and attention becomes crucial. While none of us can stop anyone from doing anything, one person taking notice of warning signs can make a significant difference. It is not your duty to make note of everyone’s behaviors, however it can be easy to miss subtle and even obvious warning signs when we are not paying attention.

There has been a noticeable increase in self-deprecating jokes and phrases such as “Kill me”, “I hate my life”, and “That makes me want to die” in recent times, which can make it easy to miss patterns of distress. While some those phrases are used figuratively, others find a literal meaning. I challenge you to be curious when your friends make these comments. Often feeling that someone cares is enough of a motivator to begin seeking help. I wish to reiterate and emphasize that none of us can stop our friends from being self-destructive, we can only actively listen to our friends and assist them in seeking professional help if needed.

With a current climate that allows society to view those with mental health needs in a negative light, it can become increasingly difficult to seek help in the most crucial circumstances. Finding avenues to help yourself and help friends in a similar position is of the utmost importance when seeking to resolve personal needs. Finding support systems within family, friend groups, and outside resources can be difficult, however there are individuals willing to pay attention to those needs.

By Jessica Brokenshire, BSW, MSW Candidate