By Emma Kowiak
Depression is one of the most debilitating ailments in the entire world, affecting over 300 million people, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States alone, 18 million, or 1 in 10, individuals suffer from depression. It takes 110 American lives per day with over 3,500 suicide attempts caused by depression or some other mental illness. Within the U.S. population, 1 in 5 college students report they are affected by anxiety or depression, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. Unfortunately, UCLA’s microcosm is not immune to this statistic; many students suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders due to stress, demand for high achievement, expectations, and other struggles that college students go through on the daily. There are very severe and harmful side effects of untreated depression; many cases lead to self-harm, substance abuse, or even suicide.
As one of the top research institutions and the no. 1 ranked public university in the U.S., one would think UCLA should have conducted plenty of research, collected valuable data, and composed a proper set of solutions for those among the student body that deal with depression and mental illness. Instead, this immensely pertinent issue that is so pervasive on UCLA’s campus is still highly stigmatized and a topic of conversation avoided by most. This also raises the question of why the mental health programs that are supposed to help and alleviate these issues are still severe ly underfunded and underused.
Studies have shown time and time again that social stigma around mental health on college campuses directly correlates with students failing to seek treatment. In turn, this creates an endless downward spiral for students. Conversation about mental health is avoided and further stigmatized, making it harder for students to seek services for their own well-being. At most, UCLA has enough mental health and psychiatric resources for 20% of the entire undergraduate population, while the only professional resource is the controversial CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services). This furthers the downward spiral that some students may experience in their journey of seeking help, as there simply are not enough resources for them.
Depression is more common than most people like to admit and can strike anyone at any time. The first step to reducing stigma and creating a safe-space for students on campus is facilitating healthy dialogue about the issue – not avoiding the difficult conversations or closing the door on mental health topics. Redirecting UCLA funds to create effective and accessible mental health programs on campus would provide advocacy, detection, diagnosis, and treatment to help students currently suffering in silence as well as those at risk. Wellfunded programs would provide for the hiring of trained professionals to advocate for student mental health and to help staff CAPS. By opening dialogue, allocating more funding, encouraging equality between physical and mental health, and choosing empowerment over shame, we would be able to move closer to a mentally healthier community. These could be the first steps in the right direction in the fight against social stigmas about facing mental illness and paramount in creating a safer and happier campus.