Campus News

Study shows stigma surrounding suicide, mental health on campus

University Health Services has increased outreach in order to break down the stigma surrounding mental health, particularly to marginalized communities on campus after studies showed students of color visited their mental health services department significantly less than white students.

University Health Services has increased outreach in order to break down the stigma surrounding mental health, particularly to marginalized communities on campus after studies showed students of color visited their mental health services department significantly less than white students.

Image By: Morgan Winston and Morgan Winston

Nine percent of UW-Madison students experience suicidal ideation, according to a recent University Health Services report, leading the campus community to raise concerns about stigma surrounding the issue.

Data shows 40 percent of students surveyed agreed with the statement “most people would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment,” according to The Healthy Minds Study.

The University Health Services study also showed that, of the sampled population of UW-Madison students, nine percent experienced suicidal ideation in 2015 to 2016. UHS Director of Psychiatric Services Angela Janis said this is a common issue the clinic experiences. She said they have some “predictability” with students reporting suicidal ideation each year, and notice upticks at the beginning of the semester, during exams and, last fall, an increase following the presidential election.

The stigma may prevent minority populations of people from obtaining mental health assistance, though students of color have a higher rate of depression than white students, according to Janis. Data collected by UHS showed there were 22,315 student visits to UHS mental health services in the 2015-’16 academic year—15,210 of those students identified as white, while all other ethnic groups ranked below 3,000.

“Sometimes, depending on people’s cultural or personal background, they may have grown up in a place where it was less acceptable to obtain mental health care,” Janis said. “[UHS] wants to show the student population that everybody is welcome here and we take it very seriously to train and educate our staff to be as open, sensitive and aware of all the things going on that we can be.”

Janis said UHS is attempting to “bridge that gap” by increasing outreach programming to those populations on campus. One way is through Let’s Talk drop in sessions, where students can stop by at their convenience and discuss their issues with a UHS counselor. Those sessions are held at the Multicultural Student Center as well as other locations.

UHS has also moved some counselors from the seventh floor mental health floor to primary care on the fifth floor in order to make services more accessible for students who worry about the stigma they fear may come with a visit to the upper level.

Student organizations also advocate for fighting the stigma surrounding mental health. The suicide prevention group Ask.Listen.Save. hosted a march from Sellery Residence Hall down Lakeshore Path Sunday. More than 300 attendees walked to raise awareness about suicide and start an alternative conversation to end the stigma.

“It’s important that we continue to raise awareness for suicide prevention on our campus due to the prevalence of mental health and suicide,” Emma Weissner, the publicity coordinator for Ask.Listen.Save., said. “We like to encourage conversation and awareness in order to combat this issue and eventually decrease the depression and suicide rates on campus.”

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Cardinal.