The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 24th

NC to help mental health awareness

The state of North Carolina has received two consecutive “D” ratings from the National Alliance on Mental Illness — and the UNC system’s mental health services are having to pick up the slack.

In both 2006 and 2009, North Carolina was awarded a “D” for its mental health diagnosis and treatment. In 2009, North Carolina was one of 21 states that received a “D,” the average grade for states.

N.C. Mental Health
  • North Carolina received a score of a “D” for its mental health diagnosis and treatment in 2006 and 2009.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students.
  • More than 25 percent of Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental illness each year.

“(North Carolina is) doing a lousy job as a state,” said David Rubinow, chairman of UNC-CH’s psychiatry department.

He said the poor quality of the state’s mental health services has caused people to flock to UNC-system facilities.

UNC’s facilities are open not only to students, but to faculty and the larger community.

“We attempt to meet unrealistic expectations,” he said.

Dan Jones, director of counseling and psychological services at Appalachian State University, said the university’s mental health services struggle with insufficient resources.

ASU has incorporated group therapy into its counseling services to keep up with growing demand, he said.

“Research shows that group therapy is equivocal to individual therapy,” Jones said. “The students help each other. They can relate to others.”

The UNC-system Association of Student Governments is trying to improve mental health services for system students.

At its September meeting, the association made plans to sponsor a statewide day of recognition for mental health. ASG also decided to research the current state of mental health services and resources across the UNC system to give recommendations for reform.

John Secrest, the association’s vice president of student affairs, said association members are passionate about their work on a cause that has personal ties to many.

UNC-CH has a number of programs to help students and members of the community who are in need of mental health treatment. Programs exist to aid in substance abuse, depression and eating disorders.

Rubinow said the programs have been successful, but at a large institution such as UNC-CH, even more awareness is important.

“The problem is the perverse stigma that is still associated with mental health,” Rubinow said. “There is this idea that the mind isn’t real and the body is.”

In order to remove such a stigma, Rubinow expressed support for the creation of an initiative, like the one that ASG is working on, to bring awareness to mental health.

“It’s a cause I know I really could get people to rally around,” he said.

Jones, from ASU, said suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, and the majority of these students never received help.

“We want to get to the student when it is a small problem,” he said.

More than 25 percent of Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental illness each year, Rubinow said.

Jones said he hopes the university’s mental health center will eventually receive more funding and will be able to expand.

“We are doing the best we can, but sometimes we’re just trying to keep our head above water,” Jones said.

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