University policies should require mandatory mental health and suicide education for students. The “help is there if you want it” attitude we leave students with is similar to blaming a neglected child for not taking advantage of child protective services. At least if a child requires help, they are not shamed for needing it.
Debunking myths and spreading facts about mental illness and contributing factors would help reduce stigma and “victim-blaming,” Providing students with the same education as “faculty gatekeepers” would increase identification of warning signs. When an entire student body is educated, disclosing internal struggles to a peer may seem less ominous than risking that a confidant may be ill-equipped to respond. . .
Mental health shouldn’t only be addressed when it becomes dangerous, just like healthy eating habits shouldn’t be endorsed only after a heart attack. Mandating this education would benefit all students regardless of their position on the mental health spectrum. Many falsely fear that open-dialogue may lead to action, yet discussion may be the most beneficial tool in our arsenal. The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act of 2004 has provided suicide prevention grants for 38 schools, but the 2013 Reauthorization hasn’t been passed.
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Trigger Warning: Suicide