This week, UNC Student Government and the UNC-Chapel Hill Mental Health Coalition will host its first Mental Health Awareness Week to promote mental health awareness and education on campus.
Not a lot of people know about the Mental Health Task Force, which falls under the jurisdiction of Student Government’s Executive Branch. But despite its lack of publicity, members of the task force work behind the scenes to make UNC a healthier, more inclusive space for people struggling with mental illness.
As much as we acknowledge that mental health is an issue that exists on campus, we do very little to actually raise awareness about mental health struggles or actively promote caring for ourselves and others. That’s why Mental Health Awareness Week is so important — it offers solidarity to those who are struggling and and encourages those who aren’t to understand and empathize with their peers.
I’m not pretending to know the best way to address mental health and neither are they. But sometimes, simply acknowledging someone’s struggles and letting them know they are seen and heard is enough. In my experience, one of the hardest parts of my mental health is feeling invalidated or judged by my peers who fundamentally misunderstand what it’s like to struggle with mental illness.
There continues to be a significant stigma surrounding mental health both on campus and in society at large. For those who struggle with mental illness, it serves as a barrier, a badge of shame that sets them apart from their neurotypical peers. The first step toward any solution must begin with de-stigmatizing mental health — by talking about it, embracing it, accepting it.