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Mental health issues are increasing among college students across the United States, as indicated by the most recent Healthy Minds Study — a collaborative study between the University of Michigan and Boston University. The annual study  examines mental health and utilized services regarding graduate and undergraduate students. In 2018, the survey reported that in Washington State, four out of five college students have emotional distress affects their academic performance, while one third admit to having depression or anixety and five percent considered suicide.

Within UW Tacoma, one registered student organization seeks to further increase the awareness of mental health issues which students face.The National Alliance of Mental Illness On Campus advocates for resources, research and support for those affected by mental illness.They have already hosted several events related to the bettering one’s wellbeing, including a blood drive in November. NAMI On Campus is officially affiliated with NAMI Pierce County, which strives to bring educational awareness and resources to members of the community and their families.

“College is a time of transition,” said Regina Harper, NAMI On Campus’ president. “For many students it’s the first time they’re away from home and living independently for extended periods of time. Without the structure of home and parental figures, it becomes important for college students to learn how to take care of their mental health. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly are important for everyone in order to maintain their mental health, but are critical for those with mental health conditions.”  

UWT also supplies other additional resources with those battling mental health setbacks. The Counseling and Psychology Center provides no-charge appointments with mental health professionals and guidance with hardship withdrawals. UW Campus Safety Office is also on call 24/7 in case of an emergency.

“One thing students don’t know is that our services are confidential, like any other provider in the community,” Cassandra N. Nicholas, Ph.D and CAP’s director stated. “Faculty without written permission [from the client] cannot receive information. Neither can other students or parents.”

The current public stigma against mental illness is one of the biggest concerns as it limits people from seeking support.

“Unfortunately, mental illness has historically been viewed as something that makes people different, an identity that ostracizes individuals and makes them feel misunderstood and alone,” Harper stated. “Young adults may notice that they are not feeling mentally well, but are likely afraid to talk about it and seek help out of fear of being perceived as different or having their diagnosis become their entire identity. However, everyone has mental health and mental health conditions are common. The more we talk about mental health and mental illness, the more these common experiences becomes normalized.”

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at  1-800-273-8255 or chat online on their website, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/. In case of emergency contact 911.

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