By Zach Harbauer
Guest Opinion Writer
On November 29, The Arbiter released an article discussing the status of mental health on Boise State’s campus. In it the writer discusses a particular piece of legislation that is supposedly floating around ASBSU. However, as the author of that resolution, I can confirm that this resolution is no longer being discussed. The notion that it is being debated and expanded on is factually inaccurate. The claim that steps are being taken to improve the quality of mental health for Boise State students is also inaccurate as we are falling behind national standards. It takes upwards of four weeks to access Boise State’s counseling services because the resources needed to keep a nationally competative counseling center simply are not there. My resolution was designed to try and help this issue but unfortunately that did not become a reality.
So where does that lead us? As a psychology student who plans on being a clinical therapist, I can assure you I have done the research and I can say confidently that we have a mental illness problem. For those of us invested in this field we can tell you that mental illness is not a “process” that everyone goes through, which is an idea last week’s article seemed to assert. Around 25 percent of Americans have a mental illness, I consider that to be a problem especially when you look at the statistics and see that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. When I take that information and combine it with the fact that Idaho is consistently in the top ten nationwide for suicide rates, I see our university on a path towards catastrophe. That’s the reality of the situation, a future I hope we never have to face. That’s the extreme end of the problem but there are still a lot of problems mental illness poses to students. Major depressive disorder makes it so students who were once A+ students have to struggle just to make it to class, anxiety keeps students from getting the sleep they need to be successful, addiction continues to be a major concern and all of this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Tackling the problem of mental illness requires fighting on two fronts. The first front is policy. We have to change the way in which we address mental health on campus. We need to be lobbying for a major allocation of resources towards the counseling centers as well as providing additional mental health trainings to those in positions where it could be used. The second part of the battle involves rhetoric. When people describe mental illness as a process that everyone goes through, such as what was stated in last week’s article, it belittles the problem and forces those suffering into silence. We have to change the way in which we talk about mental illness. There’s not soft way to say this but we have to legitimize the suffering of those around us. We have to let these students in need know that what they are going through is real and valid and that they do not have to be ashamed of it. We also have to make sure that these students know that there is help is out there but to do that requires us to actually put those services out there.
There is a process, and steps are being taken, just not the ones addressed in last week’s article. I am currently president of an on-campus peer run mental health support group called Tender Thoughts. We are a group of students who come from all walks of life and simply get together to talk to one another about whatever is going on at the time. I encourage everyone who feels the need to vent and connect with other students to come to our weekly meetings. In addition to that, I am in the beginning talks of creating a traveling mental health education program. The idea is that we go to housing floors and give presentations and literature about mental health treatment and resources out there. Hopefully this will lead into larger comprehensive programs such as the ones I talked about in my resolution. I promise you that if your life has not already been impacted by mental illness, it will be.