Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: A quiet illness

Mental health is a difficult problem to tackle. When someone breaks an arm playing pickup football, they have an unavoidable physical ailment that requires immediate attention. Mental illnesses are easier to ignore because their symptoms are less obvious.
People are often hesitant to seek help for mental health problems, because there are unjustified stigmas attached to such disorders. Going to a psychiatrist or psychologist is sometimes thought to be an admission of insanity. Far from it, the first step toward fixing a problem is admitting that a problem exists. Those who have identified with their disorder are on their way toward treating it.
We applaud Student Health Services for sending out emails reminding some students about the psychiatric help that the center offers. But the emails largely missed their mark. By only reaching out to these select students, SHS missed an extra chance to contact students who might fall through the woodwork. Instead of sending valuable information to all Boston University students, SHS only sent the messages to students who admitted on a pre-attendance form to having psychiatric conditions.
At the very least, the university should have sent the email to students who have a family history of mental illness. Many studies have proved that mental conditions within a family carry the risk of being passed on. Schizophrenia, for example, affects 1 percent of the general population. But it affects 9 to 15 percent of the people who have a sibling, or parent with the disorder, according to a 2004 Emory University School of Medicine study. The study showed similar familial correlations in bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder.
But even more than just going to the potential mental health ‘risks,’ the SHS email should have been sent to the entire university. No harm can come from reminding students about the free services that are available at BU.
Slightly more than a quarter of the adult population suffers from some sort of mental illness, according to the National Institute of Metal Health. Yet only one in seven college students reports being affected by mental illness, according to a 2004 study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Clearly, there is reason to offer mental health help to more than just the students who claim to need it.’ ‘
Though an email is just a subtle reminder about possible assistance, it is better than doing nothing. There may have been a variety of reasons explaining why students didn’t check the box on the initial form, but if they are checking their inbox, feeling even slightly blue or mentally unwell, and see that SHS is there to help, they might just be inspired to get themselves help.

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