mental health illustraton Gracie Williams

College comes with no shortage of stressful factors. According to ABC News, a study on mental health found that three out of four college students reported at least one stressful life event within the time span of a year. Mental health is one major influence on student well-being.

Increasingly, conversations regarding self-care have been more prevalent. The University of Kansas provides resources for mental health support and student well-being, including the self-help library provided by CAPS. And yet, the stigma regarding medication usage for mental health is still prevalent on the KU campus.

In conversation, it’s not uncommon to hear the opinion that perhaps medication for mental illness is not necessary. This is supported by a popular rhetoric that mental illness can be cured simply by pursuing activities that bring individual joy and lessen stress, like exercising or spending time outside.

The fact is, there is no one right answer for how to deal with mental health. Every person is different, every person’s experiences are different, and the chosen paths of treatment must reflect that. For some, perhaps lifestyle choices and adjustments are enough to manage their mental health. However, for many individuals who suffer from mental illness, seeking medical treatment, including the usage of prescription drugs, is necessary for managing their illness.

The stigma surrounding the usage of prescription drugs to treat mental illness is incredibly detrimental to an individual’s ability to seek out help. This further perpetuates the mentality that those who do seek out help are too weak to manage the condition on their own.

This isolates individuals who do require treatment or medication, and that isolation does nothing to improve their condition. If anything, it can worsen the condition. Even more so, this falsely classifies the act of seeking help as an act of desperation and weakness, rather than an act of strength, recognition of personal needs and responsibility.

This has been a topic on my mind a lot lately, as I have personally been dealing with mental health struggles. Speaking from my own experience, the stigma surrounding treatment for mental health and the anti-medication rhetoric seeped deep into my fears that my professors, fellow students and even my friends would view me differently because of it. I was attempting to convince myself that I just had to be strong enough to manage the condition on my own.

And yet, once I did start treatment and medication, I realized it was the spark I needed to ignite my own ability to regain control of my life. Not only did the medication and treatment help with the symptoms of the disorders, but I was also able to see more clearly the changes I needed to make to correct destructive habits.

It is absolutely vital, during Mental Health Awareness Month and every month, that a positive and constructive conversation surrounding mental health continues. Every individual is different, and there is no "correct" path to achieving mental health, so let each person handle their mental health in the way they need to. 

Grace Brunner is a sophomore from Overland Park studying English and political science.