Conversations about mental health
| Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Like many of you, we have enjoyed reading about our fellow Domers’ misadventures and silly secrets on the anonymous ND Confessions Facebook page. Recently, however, some of the posts have taken a more serious tone: From confessions about mental illness, to eating disorders, grief and anxiety. While most reactions to these confessions have been supportive, some have been downright disrespectful. Recent Viewpoint letters (“A different sort of confession,” April 9; “Not for ND Confessions,” April 12) have highlighted the need for a conversation about the issues raised on this page. We believe this situation particularly highlights the need for a genuine discussion about the way mental health is addressed on campus and online.
According to the American College Health Association, 25 percent of college students are diagnosed or treated for a mental health disorder each year. But, as many of the posts on the ND Confessions page report, students often feel like they don’t have a safe outlet to discuss their concerns on campus, even with their closest friends. Comments that stigmatize, blame or poke fun at students struggling with these issues perpetuate misconceptions and contribute to a campus environment which often feels inhospitable to conversations about mental health. This is unacceptable.
We need to create space for genuine dialogue about mental health at Notre Dame, where individuals feel they can share their stories safely and without judgement. Every person on this campus is responsible for helping to make that happen – and the process has to begin by checking the way we talk about about these issues in the dorms, dining halls and online.
We commend those who have taken the time to post supportive comments. We also recognize the good intentions of the moderator(s) of the page and their efforts to make it a place which is tolerant of a wide variety of experiences and perspectives. However, we would like to remind all involved of the difficult and complex nature of many of these concerns. Commentators, please continue to post links to official support services and provide words of encouragement. However, please do not offer unsolicited and unprofessional advice, as this may do more harm than help. We ask that the moderator(s) of the page use discretion in posting confessions of a serious nature, and that they develop a systematic response to submissions which suggest a need for immediate support.
If you’re struggling, know that you’re not alone and the Notre Dame family is here to support you. We encourage students with concerns big or small to check out the great services provided by the University Counselling Center, and to consider joining NAMI-ND (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a student organization that’s working to end the stigma surrounding mental illness on campus.
Confession is brave and cathartic, but it can also be a one-way street. Let’s start a real conversation about mental health on campus and how we can best support each other.