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Myths and Facts
Mental Health Myths & Stigmas
1 in 5 experience mental illness in a given year
A serious mental illness requires support and should not be ignored. In fact, the earlier one seeks support and professional help, the more likely that it does not derail the individual. It takes strength and courage to ask for professional help.
Mental illness has nothing to do with weakness of character and is a product of factors often beyond an individual's control. Depression and other mental illnesses result from changes in brain chemistry or functioning. Other factors include life experiences, such as trauma, stress, home life or a family history, socioeconomic status. Strength and resilience comes from recognizing changes in how you know yourself to be in order to reach out for help.
Research shows that the incidence of violence in people who have a mental illness is not significantly higher than it is in the general population. Contrary to media representations, people with serious mental health issues are 10 times more likely to be a victim of violence.
Some of the brightest, most creative and successful people have mental illness. The brain is an organ like any other organ and therefore it malfunctions. Just like with any other medical illness, it is necessary to understand how to take care of yourself and make sure you connect and create a support network. Some known individuals who have struggled with mental health issues include - J.K. Rowling, Elyn Saks, Demi Lovato, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Phelps, Isaac Newton, and Mark Twain.
Suicide Prevention Myths
Asking someone about suicidal intent lowers anxiety, mitigates shame, opens up communication, and lowers the risk of an impulsive act.
There is a strong correlation between mental illness and suicidality, however, you do not have to have a mental illness to have feelings and thoughts of suicide. Certain circumstances and life events can trigger these feelings and thoughts.
80-90% of suicidal people communicate their intent sometime during the week preceding their attempt.
Anyone can help prevent the tragedy of suicide. Most people at high risk for suicide will NOT refer themselves for professional help or call a hotline.
Suicide is the most preventable kind of death. It is up to the entire community to heighten their awareness and knowledge in order to become a part of a network that is educated, caring, connected, and has the courage to intervene. Check out QPR to be a part of a community that cares.
If you are concerned about a friend, you can -
- Approach your friend directly, at a time when you can speak in private, and say you are concerned/worried (“I’m concerned about you. If something is wrong, I’d like to help.”)
- Give specific examples of their words and behaviors that you’re concerned about (“I’ve noticed you haven’t sat with us at lunch for the last several days.”)
- Invite them to talk about it (“Would you like to talk about what’s going on?” “Are you OK?”). Then listen openly to what they have to say.
- Remind them that depression, suicidal feelings, and other mental health concerns are treatable. Provide them with and go with them to the various resources available to them at SBU including Let’s Talk. If there is imminent risk or concern, contact UPD. For off-campus resources click here.
- A great resource is Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) – they offer free, short-term counseling to SBU students and have information to help refer students who may need or want services off-campus.
Most suicides occur within days or weeks of "improvement" when the individual has the energy and motivation to actually follow through with his/her suicidal thoughts.
80-90% of people who attempt or lost their life to suicide give some verbal or non-verbal clue about their intentions about a week prior. Some signs that someone is thinking about suicide include:
- Direct references to thoughts of suicide or death (“I wish I were dead,” “Everyone is better off without me”)
- Statements of intent or plans to attempt suicide
- Obtaining weapons or other means of committing suicide
- Giving away possessions
- Saying good-bye
- Vague references to unusual thoughts (“I’ve been having stupid thoughts,” etc.)
- Depression, or symptoms of depression
- Expressions of despair and hopelessness (“I don’t think things will get better,” “I don’t know if I can do this anymore,” “Life is pointless”)
- Erratic attendance or neglect of usual responsibilities such as going to class or work
- Neglecting hygiene, appearance, or necessary functions such as eating and sleeping
- Withdrawal or isolation from social relationships and/or activities
- Extreme mood swings or changes in personality
- Impulsivity and/or violence
- Increased use of substances
- A major loss or unexpected life change