By Hilary Hagerman
Dr. Sue-Ting-Teo is on a mission to end stigma against mental health ilness.
Teo, director of student health and wellness, along with the Ryerson Medical Centre, are launching an anti-stigma campaign they hope wil help break the stereotypes about mental health.
The campaign will be headed by a group of work-study students hired to be part of the Peer Mental Health Outreach. They will be responsible for planning the campaign and promoting it around campus.
“The idea is to create awareness about mental health issues and minimize stigma that is associated with mental health illness” said Teo.
“The stigma prevents people from recognizing their own illness or seeking help because of the shame associated with being labeled with a mental illness. It also prevents friends and family of affected students from acknowledging the problem and offering much needed help”
Teo said that the stigma stems from historical and cultural myths about mental illness, which aren’t well understood in society and medicine.
“Since people cannot see and physical problem, they blame in the individual for their behavior.” Teo said.
She also said that the campaign is important because university-aged students are prone to depression.
“University-aged students are under a number of stresses that do not occur during other times in their lives,” Teo said.
According to the Globe and Mail, suicide is the second leading cause of death among university students. Clinically depressed students are twice as likely to drop out of school.
Teo mentioned that the stress can stem from things like high expectations in comparison to high school, moving away from home or through learning new personal and social skills.
Coleen Carney, a phycology professor at Ryerson who concentrates on depression thinks the campaign could help break down the stigma around mental health. “One of the big stigmas is people not talking about it.” she said. Increasing attention and being able ti talk about it always almost works in breaking down these barriers.”
La He, 21, a third-year nursing student, agrees a campaign like this is needed. “It would help us to realize what people with mental health illness are going through and me more understanding towards them,” she said. “It would also help them to be less ashamed of their problems.”
But some students like first-year interior design student Anitah Rasuratham, 18, aren’t so sure. “Honestly, I don’t know if the campaign would help,” she said. “The stigma islike racism. Its not going to go anywhere anytime soon.”