By: Dr. Karen E. Mishra, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Management & Marketing at Campbell University
My life changed at 11 when I woke up, only to find out that my favorite cousin just died from suicide while I was sleeping. She had been like my big sister. We both had red hair, so we often roamed around malls and fooled people into believing that we were sisters. Once she had a baby, she spent many hours at my home, trying to console him from his colic. At the same time, even though I lost my cousin, I gained a brother: Our family adopted her son. Now, my youngest brother is 11 years younger than myself.
This event changed my perspective on mental health. I now understand that struggling with mental health is not a choice, and that we need to offer more resources to help people get through it. Not just those who struggle, but also their loved ones and caregivers. My family did not receive support and kindness from others. Suicide was frowned upon by the “church” at that time, so we were left alone in our grieving. Thankfully, most of our society is more open today about mental health challenges, but as I work on a college campus, I see that we still have a long way to go.
Even today, a student on the first day of class opened up to me about his anxiety and the way it affects his school work. He asked for my help as he struggles to get out of bed every morning and push himself to do the job, and I told him that he had my support. He told me, however, that he is getting pushback from doctors, therapists, and even family to “push through” and to “work harder” to overcome his anxiety. At a time when understanding, time, and proper mental health assistance is vital, we must consider what kind of message we sending to students when we say that a mental health challenge can be overcome merely by “working harder” rather than promoting “self-care.”
In my line of work as a college professor, every day, I see too many students struggling because they put too much pressure on themselves; they don’t have someone to confide in; the resources are not sufficient on college campuses; they don’t “look” sick; they don’t have family members who truly understand. During a previous semester, one student came into my office crying because her mother didn’t believe she was suicidal. I could tell in one short conversation with her that she was struggling and called the local counseling center to get her help on campus immediately. Because of my experience with my cousin, I know that I can be open with and helpful to these students.
This is why I am so proud to be able to support L.E.A.D.: We need to break down the stigmas associated with mental health challenges and help people understand that students cannot control the way that they feel with just “hard work” or “better thoughts.” With the excellent work that L.E.A.D. is doing, they inspire me to be a stronger advocate at my school to provide more mental health resources to my students. Maybe one day, there will be therapists or counselors all across campus, rather than tucked away in one corner of campus. That would represent a positive shift towards advocation for student self-care and improved mental health.
You can join us in improving the mental health of all students by supporting L.E.A.D.’s $100K Launch Campaign and donating at www.LEADnow.org/donate. Please join me in making a difference today.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION
In response to the rising rates of mental illness, Let’s Empower, Advocate, and Do, Inc. (L.E.A.D.) provides curriculum and training to schools, summer camps, and youth-serving organizations to promote mental health education and adolescent wellbeing.
L.E.A.D. “revolutionizes health education” by introducing topics like mental illness, substance use, and sexual violence into existing – and often outdated – health education courses in high schools. L.E.A.D.’s TryHealth curriculum supplement is currently being piloted at four high schools in two states. It has already shown promising results, including students being 2x more likely to report suicidal ideation in a peer after taking the course.
L.E.A.D. also provides innovative and evidence-based early intervention training and certification to adults working with young people and in high-risk communities. For more information or to request a free consultation, please visit www.leadnow.org or contact L.E.A.D.’s Executive Director at kyrah@LEADnow.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Karen E. Mishra, Ph.D. serves as Associate Professor of Management & Marketing at Campbell University’s Lundy-Fetterman School of Business in Buies Creek, North Carolina. She is also a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, working with leaders and teams, and is the co-author of two books about trustworthy leadership and mobile marketing.