By: Nick Mason, Contributing Writer
Towson University students, Counseling Center representatives and faculty addressed issues surrounding counseling and mental health stigmas Monday, March 28, during a panel aimed at fostering open discussion.
“Part of what we do in counseling is help other people know how to discuss this with others,” panelist and Counseling Center extern Alexandra Savela said. “Who and when do I share my struggles with?”
Held in the University Union Potomac Lounge, the panel was planned by mental health advocacy group Active Minds, the Health Center and the Student Government Association.
Panelists included Savela, Student Government Association Senator James Mileo, Counseling Center doctoral intern Ashley Wood, Womanist United President Breya Johnson, SGA Assistant Director of Civic Engagement Stephanie Brown, Active Minds President Heather Rera, and women’s and gender studies assistant professor Jameta Barlow.
During the panel, Johnson stressed that people need to be more careful about the words they choose to use. Rera said that she often hears people use incorrect language by describing Maryland weather as “bipolar.”
There’s no reason why people shouldn’t have a mental health doctor if they have a physical one, Mileo said. Mileo later advised that the best way to help family or friends struggling with mental illness is to ask them what they need or are feeling.
“Counseling takes bravery,” Wood said.
When an audience member asked about the stigma of black people being prone to not seeking help, Johnson said that it is hard to find black therapists. She said that instead, in Baltimore, many people will express themselves through music, hip hop, art and slam poetry. For her, she finds that books can help her, as well.
“Black women are understudied, underserved and misdiagnosed for depression,” Barlow said.
She added that her research has indicated that only a small percentage of that population seek professional help.
Johnson also said that as a student activist, it can be easy to forget about self-care while focusing on helping others.
“Once we learn to not take on everything and can say no, it’s almost revolutionary,” she said.
She advised that students looking for treatment should shop around and not be discouraged when one counselor or therapist doesn’t meet their needs. According to Rera, relationship between patient and therapist can be like a friendship.
Active Minds works to educate students about mental illness, reduce stigmas and promote seeking help. They will be hosting events the first week of May for Mental Health Awareness Month, as well as a 5K kickoff later this month.
Students are can call the University’s Counseling Center at 410-704-2512 or make an appointment in person anytime between 8 a.m-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.