Make it OK event aims to reduce stigma of mental illness on campus

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that one in four college students have a diagnosable mental illness. That makes it as common as people with brown eyes and even more common than people who are left handed.

According to NAMI 80 percent of students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities and 50 percent have been so anxious they struggled in school.

“Those issues can impact student success,” said Assistant Director of Student Life Anna Voight.

To help create awareness on campus about the issue, Student Life will host Make it Ok: Mental Health Awareness at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 20 in Room 1-630.

Make it Ok is an evidence-based campaign that aims to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Dakota County Mental Health Coordinator Shannon Bailey will lead the hour-long facilitated discussion that will touch on mental illnesses, how to combat stigma and effective ways to talk about mental illness.

“We want people to know that it’s ok to get help,” said Bailey.

Bailey said shame and stigma are the number one reason people don’t seek treatment for their mental health. That has negative impacts on the individual as well as the community in which they belong.

“People who don’t seek mental health treatment have a shorter life expectancy of 25 years,” said Bailey.

For those who do seek treatment Bailey said 80 percent recover from their illnesses.

“That doesn’t mean they find a cure, but many people find ways to manage their symptoms and live better lives,” Bailey added.

A public health educator, Bailey comes at this issue with personal experience. Several years ago, her daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. A college student, her daughter’s symptoms started with anxiety and morphed into mania, which led to hospitalization.

The episode led her daughter to drop out of school for a while to get her mental health under control. With proper treatment, Bailey said her daughter has been able to manage her mental health and return to school part-time.

“I want people to know that it’s touched my family too,” said Bailey.

An increasingly important topic on college campuses, Voight said Student Life hosts the event once or twice a year. She said the events are well received and she hopes for a good turnout.

For more information contact: 

Assistant Director of Student Life