We all say how depressed we are. We all say how anxious we’re feeling. We say all of these things to describe the levels of our stress without realizing the magnitude of our words.
However, when a college student says she feels depressed, we should not dismiss this as she’s probably just having a bad day. Mental health among college students is not something we can continue to ignore. According to Healthline, one out of every four college students has a mental illness. Forty-four percent of college students report having symptoms of depression, yet 75 percent of students do not seek help.
All of our universities have resources. Counselors sit waiting to talk with struggling students about their worries and want to help. Unfortunately, students don’t utilize these resources.
Why? Probably because of the stigma that comes with the phrase "mentally ill."
Nobody wants to be considered ill and nobody wants to feel weird. Society has tried to normalize mental illness by regularly using terms like bipolar disorder and depression to describe normal behaviors. If our friend seems moody, rather than asking “what's been bothering you today,” we ask “why are you being so bipolar?” If our little brother seems sad, rather than asking “what's upsetting you,” we ask “why are you depressed?”
We're all guilty of this. Just because you refer to someone as depressed doesn't mean you had bad intentions, but your words can have a greater impact that you could ever imagine. By using serious mental illnesses to joke or tease, we make it so much harder for those actually suffering to be taken seriously. Because these words are tossed around in our current society, when a friend legitimately confides in you that they're feeling depressed, you don't immediately think they need medical help.
You will probably write them off in your head as over exaggerating and assume that just talking to them about why they're sad and uttering a few cliches like “it will get better” or “I'm sorry” will make it all better. Sadly, this is sometimes not the case.
Stress is at an all-time high and life is not going to get easier any time soon. It's time to stop joking around, take advantage of the mental health services available to us, and make our generation happy again.