By Tyler Kennedy

Staff Writer

Students and staff members alike filled the living room of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMSA) on Thursday afternoon for its bi-weekly “Say What” series. The title for this particular meeting was “The Unseen Struggle: Mental Illness Amongst College Students.”

According to Jhenneffer Marcal, who serves as a Co-OMSA Say What coordinator for OMSA, the series is used to tackle big topics on campus through the use of an open dialogue.

“This is an open space where you can talk about how you feel about it honestly and without judgment,” Marcal said.

Marcal noted that past big topics on campus that they discussed in this series include white feminism, gentrification, and other topics that might include racism or the LGBTQ community; any topic that students want to talk about will be tackled by them as a group.

With the subject of mental illness, Marcal said that they would use the talk to get a better understanding of how it affects people academically and how it is easier to overlook because it is not as obvious as a physical disability.

The talk opened up with introductions and an icebreaker, with the question being “What do you think the percentage of college students who are diagnosed with mental illness is?”

Answers to that question ranged from 20 percent to 60 percent. The answer, which surprised many in the room, was that nearly 25 percent of all college students are diagnosed with some form of a mental illness at some point in their college career.

Much of the talk was centered on the stigma that goes hand-in-hand with the thought of mental illness. The word “taboo” was used multiple times in the talk when describing mental illness.

There were multiple points within the discussion when a comparison between those with mental disorders and those with physical handicaps was drawn.

A point that almost seemed universally agreed upon by everyone in the room was that people don’t understand mental illness. As to why that is the case, there can be multiple reasons.

One possible cause that was discussed by the group was the manner in which media portrays mental illness to the public.

To the group, Marcal dispersed an article published by the Associated Press on May 13, 2015 with the title of “Nursing student sues university after failing class twice.” Within the first paragraph of the piece, it is noted that this said student suffers from anxiety and depression, yet the headline of the story doesn’t mention it.   After reading the piece, the group made note that this fact, adding that some mention of mental illness should have been added to the headline.

To improve the system of how mental illness is treated, the discussion group came up with a few points. One such objective is to simply talk about it more. Another suggestion was that more education be given on how to react to people with mental illness.