Looking deeper into a mental health

Recent plane crash warrants yet anther look at how handle mental care

While mental health can be a complex and difficult topic to broach, it has been brought to the forefront of many discussions recently in light of the tragic Germanwings plane crash in France. The deadly incident, seemingly caused by a co-pilot battling depression, has given new importance to the popular views on the subject.

It is thought that the pilot, who reportedly suffered from depression multiple times during his life, intentionally flew the plane into the ground when the pilot left the cockpit to use the restroom. The revelation that this was almost certainly an intentional act committed by a mentally ill man has created an uproar in the media which brings to light the topic of mental health.

Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of the Germanwings plane, reportedly told his employer that he had previously suffered from depression while training. The problems seem to have been affecting Lubitz recently as well, however.

According to CNN, “Lubitz’s girlfriend told investigators he had seen an eye doctor and a neuropsychologist, both of whom deemed him unfit to work recently and concluded he had psychological issues.”

The new discussions of the issue highlight one of the major factors surrounding mental health; those suffering from mental health issues are often stigmatized, leading both to repression and a lack of understanding.

Dr. Sheryl Reminger, an associate professor of psychology at UIS, said, “My personal opinion is that obviously the stigma around mental health is so unnecessary. You’d be shocked if you actually talked to a large group of people how many actually experience mental health issues.”

According to the government’s mental health website, in 2011 one in five Americans experienced a mental health issue, and one in ten young people experienced a period of major depression.

On the other hand, these topics can be very personal. Reminger pointed out, “As a psychologist, due to the sort of moral and ethical issues, I don’t want to say that we should be living in a world where everyone needs to know everything about your personal life. So I think it is a very tough call…Obviously when there are safety issues involved there are stricter regulations.”

Ultimately, however, Reminger argued that treating these problems instead of hiding them can potentially prevent accidents like this in the future, as well as improve the quality of everyday life. “I think if we were more open about our experiences, not treat them like something that was taboo, I think it would be so much easier to get these types of issues treated.”

UIS offers multiple resources to help students dealing with these types of problems through the Counseling Center. There are days each semester where depression screenings are offered to students, but it is also possible to seek these screenings out through the Counseling Center, located in room 64 of the Human Resources Building.

Valerie Gebhardt, the Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Coordinator at the Counseling Center, said, “When I’m working with clients, if I see something that shows anxiety of depression I will screen them right then and there.”

Students face a number of unique difficulties in their lives that put them at a particular risk for depression and anxiety. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that in 2011 “about 30 percent of college students reported feeling ‘so depressed that it was difficult to function’ at some time in the past year.”

The institute also reports that in the same 2011 survey that more than 6 percent of college students reported seriously considering suicide.

Gebhardt argued that the high number of stressors, including the cost of attending school, academic performance, homesickness, potential problems occurring at home while the student is away, and even seemingly small issues like squabbles between roommates or friends add up to be a large burden on the shoulders of the student.

In regards to dealing with typical stresses of academic life, Gebhardt suggested, “Relax, get enough sleep, do some exercising, just eat correctly. We have a table come finals where we always set out stuff to help students learn how to relax before they take a test. The main thing is sleeping and eating.”

Difficulties are not unique to college students, however. Mental illness is costing the United States a significant amount of money in lost productivity.

NIMH writes on its website that it “conservatively estimates the total costs associated with serious mental illness, those disorders that are severely debilitating and affect about 6 percent of the adult population, to be in excess of $300 billion per year.”

The estimate is based on data from a 2002 report by multiple entities, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and a survey by Harvard Medical School. These costs stem from direct sources such as treatment, as well as indirect costs such as lost earnings among people with serious mental illness.

The Counseling Center is open Monday through Friday, and is available to help students with any mental health issues that may concern them. There are also provisions for after-hours emergencies, and normal appointments can be made through email at [email protected]