I hope no one I know sees me entering this pink building, because I can’t have them lose respect for me in the classroom, the workplace or any community space I may be looked to as a reliable source of leadership. I know that this mental health judgment is REAL within “professional” settings. Hmm … If I speed walk during a popular hour of class, my chances of recognition will be smaller. The passersby will be strangers, right? But geez, I wish I could just exclaim to the WHOLE damn world how much I love receiving these counseling services. I want to project this with pride in public, while spreading information that could save someone’s life at the same time. But then my reputation would be at risk. Why does my credibility as a student leader have to be at stake here? The thing is, this messed-down system needs tweaking in the form of a revolution.- thoughts on thoughts as I step foot into THE building.
That pink building is calling your name. It’s calling your name with resources you’ve always wanted to test out. Perhaps you could feel them deep within your wounds, if you had the courage to just go inside. You’ve heard that they have egg chairs, mental health peers, counselors galore (with more diversity than before), all waiting to be experimented by the needs of your mystical psyche. There’s only one problem: you’re involved in so many spaces, where your credibility as an activist, or an editor, a top 1% student, committee leader, and so on, has been made your priority to uphold. You can’t stop thinking about your reputation outside of these spaces, because what people see at any moment will make a difference on how they perceive your authority and contributions during the next meeting.
This is an unfortunate reality for so many student leaders on campus, who are juggling their own personal struggles in light of being some stable source of expertise for other people. It’s hard to be a student leader and indulge in mental health resources when your image is at stake, even though it never should be. Mental healthcare is necessary, but mental health stigma is an unnecessary evil that follows many people around like a daunting shadow, keeping parts of us that “need light in the dark”. The darkness of stigma tries to convince you that mental healthcare is not only a bad move for your image, but it will most certainly do more harm than good for your community, which relies on your strength as fuel for forward motion. Since when does strength mean being unfair to yourself? Holding out on receiving help when needed is not a fair move on your beautiful self. Since when did the strength to be uncomfortable (or not) and ask for mental health care go unnoticed?
This stigma convinces you that there is no way a student leader can seek these resources regularly and commit to a plan of action for recovery, especially openly. But it is in fact the student leaders who must check themselves constantly in regards to their mental health (which includes everyone, as everyone is a leader) because of the daily stresses of pioneering for change with deep-rooted passion. And it is these same student leaders who should not be condemned for seeking help, but could instead have an impactful sway in getting other members of their community to seek help as well. They could be a tool for change instead of being stuck in a cycle of regressive shaming.
Mental health stigma. It can get sticky. It can be a concept so ingrained in our identities that it’s hard to scrub off. It has affected us all, whether it’s the stigma developed towards ourselves that prevents that bold first move toward acceptance and seeking, or the stigma from others that prohibits our recovery into peace. All of us have felt the need to put up a front of strength and resilience, without being told that caring for ourselves by caring for our mental health is strength and resilience. This is fierceness. This is never negative, although it’s many a times seen with intense negativity. The views around mental health and professionalism must change NOW. There cannot be successful forces of hard work if the leaders of these spaces are not able to take care of themselves for scare of being outed and looked down upon. There will be no positive production in working fields and, more importantly, the raw beings involved in creating these spaces will not be happy. All deserve the chance to strive for happiness in light of health and to prosper in their blossoming self love.
You are not insufficient in your leadership capabilities if you are seen walking into CAPS, although some may think this to be the case. You are not insufficient in your perspective in meetings if you see a counselor one to four times a week and beyond. You are not insufficient as a worker if you cry twice a day, you are not insufficient in political spheres if you take medication for mental illness, and you are not insufficient as an organizer in progressive spheres if your moods are unstable. You are beyond sufficient. You are the revolution before you got mental health care, and you are an even stronger revolution while getting mental health care that is suitable and safe for your needs. Your mental healthcare and your professional life may coexist in holy love for one another, if only the stigma is banished from society. You can be the change. End mental health stigma by caring for yourself and others, and making sure that you are not shaming yourself in light of your mind and all its depth.
Step into the pink building. See if it’s the right place for you. See a counselor. If you don’t like that counselor, ask for another one. Talk about therapy with your friends if this is safe for you. Talk about it with your family when you are ready. Be proud of yourself for seeking treatment. If you feel like it, talk about your last counseling session in your professional group. Speak up and out at your meetings about your experiences receiving help. Let’s talk about it to normalize it. Let’s do it to normalize it. Let’s keep it to ourselves if the world ain’t ready, but let’s smile after every good experience in that pink building. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You are always a credible source of intellect, health, and joy. I look up to you for exploring your mental health. Thank you for doing so.
Email email@example.com to join a photo campaign to help combat mental health stigma at UCSB.
- Grab a 8×10 sheet of paper and write a positive quote that has personal meaning to you. (please write this largely and clearly with a black marker). Please limit this quote to about 10 words.
- Ask someone to take a photograph of you and your quote (preferably good quality & in a location outdoors on campus or in Isla Vista). If you’d like to remain anonymous, you can place the quote over your face in the photo.
- Type a short description of how this quote ties into destigmatizing counseling/therapy or share one of your own stories related to counseling or mental health stigma (the maximum amount of words is 250).
- Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org