Students of US universities lend a helping hand to peers with mental problems

Students of US universities lend a helping hand to peers with mental problems

The field of mental health care is riddled with various challenges, the primary being those associated with access and costs. Statistics from an earlier report by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that there are only 7.79 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people in the United States. Added to this is the fact that they are not paid in proportion to the services they offer. Dr. Linda Girgis, M.D., F.A.A.F.P., feels that this is the reason why psychiatrists are either closing shop or are accepting cash payments only, a mode of payment many people are not comfortable with.

The lack of access to mental health care facilities has created a demand for unconventional support systems, most of which are being initiated by support communities or concerned individuals, who understand the risks posed by untreated mental disorders. Of late, students from University of California, Berkeley (UCB) and University of Michigan (U-M) came forward to create support systems for fellow students with mental ailments.

Connecting students with mental disorders

With the aim to help students with mental illnesses connect with others going through the same ordeal on the campus, Monica Casanova, a public health major with the UCB, who herself suffered from severe depression during her freshman year, developed SafeSpace, a website and mobile application. The app secured the first place in UCB’s annual 2016 Big Ideas Contest. It has now partnered with the University Health Services program, called Cal Bears Say Hi, to promote peer-to-peer relationship, act as a support system among the students on campus, and fight the stigmas associated with mental disorders.

Meanwhile, the students of U-M have also come forward making efforts to help people among themselves suffering from mental disorders. Happy to see such participation, the varsity’s Counselling and Psychology Services (CAPS) encouraged the formation of two new student groups – the CAPS Student Advisory Board (CAPS SAB) and the CAPS In Action (CIA). Both these groups work towards reducing the stigma associated with mental illnesses, advising students on matters relating to mental health, and promoting a holistically healthy environment through their mental health outreach efforts.

Such initiatives are a welcome step at a time when approximately one in every five youths between the ages of 13 and 18 years experiences some kind of severe mental disorder at some point in his or her life. Projects like these help in plugging the gap between large student populations and limited access to mental health services by promoting peer-to-peer support system at the university level. If successful, these models can be replicated for larger populations at the state and/or the national level.

Mental health problems can be treated

Mental health problems are very common and if left untreated can have debilitating effects on an individual. A serious mental health disorder can completely take over one’s life, making it impossible for the individual to foster in any sphere of personal, social and professional life. A mental issue which is comparatively not so severe may turn into a serious one if left untreated or can lead to a co-occurring condition like addiction. However, timely access to treatment programs and support systems help such patients cope with the problem and in most cases lead to full recovery.

If you or your loved one is seeking to overcome any mental illness, Florida Mental Health Helpline can help. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-846-5588 to get connected with one of the best rehab centers in Florida. You can even chat online with our trained professionals to know more about mental disorder treatment in Florida.

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