Texas State students should offer awareness and support for their fellow peers who may have diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illnesses and learning disabilities.
The most concerning issue of all is people may not put enough effort toward understanding the symptoms of a mental illness or a learning disability. However, people may not even be aware others are suffering from conditions. People sometimes fail to realize the unusual behavior presented by a sufferer is actually symptomatic of a mental illness or learning disability.
This leads to social ostracism or even ridicule of someone with a mental illness or learning disability. The sufferer is oftentimes deemed and dismissed as being “weird” or “dumb.” As a result, the sufferer’s peers may coldly turn their back. All of this only further aggravates the situation for the sufferer.
According to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment for fall 2011, 6.7 percent of college students reported having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Another 4.3 percent reported having a learning disability. 5.6 percent reported having a psychiatric condition.
Bobcats would greatly benefit from mental illness awareness being the Common Experience theme, as Joe Meyer, director of Institutional Research, proposed. Texas State would help foster much-needed knowledge of an issue often overlooked despite its far-reaching impact on college students.
Mental illness, in particular, may disguise itself in behavior that is often misinterpreted by the greater public. Substance abuse is an example of this. Thirty-seven percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness, according to information from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Even if there is no pre-existing psychiatric condition present, college life can still be a source of significant strain for any student. According to the American College Health Association’s 2011 figures, 49.9 percent of college students felt “overwhelming anxiety,” and 60.5 percent were reported as feeling “very sad” within the 12 months prior. Lastly, academics were determined by 44 percent of students to be “traumatic” or “very difficult to handle” over the same time frame.
Texas State students who believe they may have learning disabilities ought to seek out registration with the Office of Disability Services. To guarantee successes in class, students with learning disabilities are encouraged to register with the office early in the semester. Registration with the Office of Disability Services is kept confidential and does not appear on a student’s academic records. According to the office’s website, approximately 50 percent of the students it serves with learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorders were not diagnosed until they were first screened at the university.
Several times throughout the semester, Texas State’s Counseling Center offers a few different workshops addressing anxiety and stress issues. For more in-depth support, a variety of counseling services are also available through this on-campus resource. These services include individual, group, couples and career counseling.
Tim O’Brien, author and former Texas State MFA Program chair, once wrote, “They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.” Because the same sentiment very much applies, O’Brien could have easily been describing the situation of a mental illness or learning disability sufferer. As explained, those with mental illnesses or learning disabilities can find themselves bogged down by the pressures a condition may present. Oftentimes, a sufferer may live in quiet destitution because of these challenges.
Sufferers need to understand there is no need to endure the pain alone, and they should realize help is available. And for non-sufferers, it is important to extend empathy to people who may have a mental illness or learning disability.
—Jose R. Gonzalez is a mass communication senior.