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Editorial

Mental health is something that society needs to take seriously

March 22, 2018

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen suicide rates between ages 10-17 in the U.S. are up by 70 percent since 2006. Suicide rates tend to peak among young adults between the ages 20-24, according to data on campus suicide and depression from Neumann University, Penn., making it the second-leading cause of death in that age group.

Suicide is a very serious problem that, according to data, is getting worse in the U.S. Reasons given typically include spotty mental health screening, poor access to mental health services and resistance among young people – particularly young men – to accept help.

The UW-River Falls Student Government Association is working with Student Health and Counseling and Student Involvement to sponsor a Mental Health Awareness Week April 2-6. Details on what will go on during the week are yet to be released, but the SGA has been discussing bringing in therapy dogs and hosting speaker Kevin Hines to talk about his experience as a suicide survivor.

SGA said on the event Facebook post, “It is our goal to help raise awareness about mental health and to help equip the student body with skills and tips on how to effectively manage and cope with mental health issues.”

The Student Voice would like to express its support of this event and encourage students to participate. Mental Health Awareness Week is a valuable opportunity. Those who do not suffer from mental health issues get a chance to learn more about the problem and how they might help. Those who do suffer from mental health issues get to see the support systems that UWRF has available for them to use. Overall, it’s an opportunity to lighten the stigma associated with mental health illness and dispel reluctance to get help.

Mental Health Awareness Week is a good step in the right direction, but prevention efforts can’t stop after April 6. The stigma surrounding mental health issues needs to be addressed by society as a whole. Things like cyberbullying and casual slang about “killing yourself” have become far too common in our digital environment. These things should be shocking, and we should not be normalizing them.

There have been signs in national news that society is beginning to take steps in the right direction. Professional basketball has made a recent push to bring discussion of mental health and wellness to the forefront. Players have begun to share their personal problems, and the NBA is making plans to formulate a more robust mental health program to address the needs of its players, according to ESPN.

This is one improvement, but there are other steps that society as a whole should be adopting. Congress is considering creating a three-digit suicide prevention hotline, which could improve on an already-existing hotline that studies have shown is successful. University faculty should also be trained to recognize signs of mental illness so that they can catch it in its earliest stages and encourage people to get help.

Suicide has always been an issue, but the numbers indicate that it is becoming more prevalent. This suggests that we need to change our strategies and mindset as a society.

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