Featured News - Current News - Archived News - News Categories

Students discuss mental health and accessing services

by Kari Ashworth - News Editor
Fri, Dec 13th 2019 10:00 am
Deliberative Dialogues has been running throughout the duration of the semester, tackling a number of hard hitting topics. In it's final installment, the office of Community Development hosted a discussion about mental illness.
Deliberative Dialogues has been running throughout the duration of the semester, tackling a number of hard hitting topics. In it's final installment, the office of Community Development hosted a discussion about mental illness.

The Office of Community Development held its latest installment of Deliberate Dialogues on Thursday, Nov. 21 in the Seymour College Union. This discussion focused on “Mental Health in America” and gave three options for addressing the rising issue. 

The discussion was moderated by three community ambassadors, Mel Horsford, Serena Blackburn and Ayomide Erinosho. The purpose of the event was to mediate a discussion between the attendees, who were seated in a circle to encourage a conversation flow. 

Horsford began the discussion by presenting a short informational video regarding mental illness in America. Following the video, Horsford gave the ground rules for the discussion, explaining his role as a moderator and that they were meant to help move the conversation along and participants should evaluate every option before coming to a conclusion. 

The first option to combat mental illness in America, presented by Horsford, is to put safety before everything else and to “take all measures to keep people safe.”

Multiple attendees believed this approach assumed all people with a mental illness are criminals and when looking at it from a criminal justice standpoint, race is a factor in who is targeted as a criminal. However, when posed a question regarding whether certain professions should allow mental health screenings, the attendees overwhelmingly agreed. 

“I actually did a summer research project on whether or not healthcare professionals in general should be required biannually to submit to mental health testing,” Nurse and Health Science Major Belinda Miller said. “And it’s not so much to put a mark on their record or anything like that. But more so just to make sure they’re okay. And it’s not just nurses. It’s also for first responders, firefighters, police officers, because we see some of the most gruesome things you know that you can imagine.”

Miller detailed some of the scenes people in those professions experience and explained that people need to check in with them because of this.

“With all those type of things — with those type of tragedies — people who see that firsthand, over, over and over again, day in and day out, at some point, you need to make sure that those people are OK,” Miller said. “So once you hire them, they may have a glowing résumé, but after so long, you need to check to make sure they’re OK.”

Blackburn presented option two, which focuses on expanding services and “holds that anyone who needs help should be actively encouraged to get it.” Blackburn cited the U.S. Department of Health Services by explaining 100 million Americans currently live in areas with a shortage of mental health resources. 

Those in attendance were not surprised by this statistic. One student explained she had to search for a mental health specialist outside of the college and finally found one in Brockport, only it was not an easy process. 

Alana Petronio, a psychology major at the college, reiterated this, saying she did not know of many mental health resources where she grew up — about 30 minutes away — or in the greater Brockport area. 

Whether there is a financial burden for people to receive services, as pointed out by Miller, or simply a lack of known services, the group agreed mental health services should be expanded upon. 

The conversation also quickly moved into the stigma that comes with mental illnesses. One student said she grew up in an area where “mental illness is not a thing,” explaining people believed others were “spoiled” or “spent too much time in front of the TV.” Petronio agreed with this, saying her boyfriend is from the Bronx and did not quite understand mental illness before he met Petronio.

“I have depression and anxiety, and he’s like ‘what the f--- is that?” Petronio said. “And so I tried to sit down and talk to him about it, but it’s like, when you have no resources, and we don’t even have kids learning in school about mental illnesses it’s so sad. Like, you don’t even let them know in school that a mental illness is a thing until you see on the news, ‘oh, there’s school shooter; oh, he was depressed, oh, he had schizophrenia, oh, he had PTSD.”

Another student interjected, saying the shooter can then be labeled as “different” from the rest of society. Petronio agreed that those labels furthers the stigma behind mental illness. 

“Everybody has this view of mental illnesses,” Petronio said. “Nobody wants to be labeled because everybody has this view of mental illness like ‘oh, it’s bad.’ I’m not saying mental illness is good, but it’s different and people are scared of different.”

Erinosho presented the third option, which would allow people to plot their own course and focuses “less on medical diagnosis” and more on individualistic choices. The main question facilitated by Erinosho examines if society has gone too far in diagnosing someone with behavioral problems as mental illnesses. 

Many agreed, with one student saying that in terms of ADHD, young children are being diagnosed at a time when they should be overly active. Miller has seen firsthand the effect of this. 

“I’ve seen the effect on giving a child medication like that at three or four years old,” Miller said. “They go from being happy and bubbly and running all over the place to staring into space.”

Horsford ended the discussion by allowing people to give any closing thoughts. Associate Director of Counseling Services Darlene Schmitt summed the conversation up with “expand services.”

“Also, to put a shout out if anybody’s looking for community resources, you can call me, come see me in Hazen,” Schmitt said. “I’ve got plenty of things to give you.”

Photo of the Week

Taken by Vincent Croce:
Staff Photographer

Author List