Do people believe everything they see on TV? Maybe not.1 in 4

But for those who have little exposure to a topic, TV can shape expectations of certain experiences, places or even groups of people. In the case of mental illness, this can produce vast misperceptions.

For example, 60 percent of prime-time characters with a mental illness are portrayed as violent. In reality, only 7 percent of those with a mental illness ever act out violently, and most of those instances occur within the home.

Working to combat these stereotypes and stigmas, more than 175 students and attendees at “The Road to Recovery,” a Mental Health Awareness Month event at the Collin College Central Park Campus on Oct. 10, learned credible facts about mental illness and substance abuse during an interactive afternoon with experts and recovery leaders from the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Collin County and Dallas chapters.

Pamela Love-White, a Collin College counselor and member of employee organization Open Doors, Open Minds, said the event, run in partnership with Counseling Services, student organization Active Minds and NAMI-Collin County, was intended to provide the college and community with an opportunity to improve understanding of mental illness.

“As a licensed professional counselor, I understand the stigma associated with these disorders and how that stigma becomes an obstacle for individuals seeking treatment,” Love-White said.

The panel of NAMI experts and support leaders emphasized the importance of addressing individuals as humans first, explaining that one should be regarded as a person who lives with schizophrenia, rather than a schizophrenic.

“Language is a powerful thing,” an Active Minds student member said, agreeing with one of the speakers. “I hate when people throw around terms like crazy or bipolar.”

Through a texting poll, audience members were asked to answer multiple-choice questions about mental illness. NAMI panel discussion of the correct answer and input from Collin College faculty and staff followed the participant poll results.

Below are a few facts discussed at “The Road to Recovery:”

  • At some point in their life 46 percent of people are diagnosable with some mental illness listed on the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)
  • One in every 17 deals with a persistent DSM-IV mental illness.
  • Not all mental illnesses are life long. Some individuals diagnosed with a mental illness can recover.
  • Individuals in the age group of 18 – 24 are the most likely to begin experiencing symptoms of mental and substance abuse disorders.
  • One in 10 college students seriously considers suicide each year.
  • Forty-four percent of college students reported being so depressed at some point in their college career that they found it hard to function.
  • Mental health care is generally more expensive than regular health care.
  • The 60+ age group is the least likely to seek treatment for mental illness.

Sepehr Sabet-Sarvestani, who plans to earn a degree in experimental psychology and pursue research, is the president of Collin College Active Minds. Sabet-Sarvestani said he initially joined the organization aimed at changing the conversation about mental health on campus, with the hope of gaining similar knowledge from the discussions at “The Road to Recovery” event.

“The first event I participated in was the Send Silence Packing event last year that focused on the 1100 college students who commit suicide every year, a number I found alarming,” Sabet-Sarvestani said. “To demonstrate this, filled the lawn area with 1100 backpacks, some of which contained stories about those individuals, their lives, and how suicide affected their families and friends.”

The organization also hosted a booth outside the event with information for other students.

One promotional button the group handed out read “1 in 4,” referring to the one in every four individuals who will experience mental illness at some point in their life. Another read “Laugh More.”

Today, Collin College Active Minds has about 70 members and has been recognized as an outstanding chapter for its leadership and events.

In addition to reminding participants that Collin College offers free counseling services to any credit student, Counseling Services provided a link to “Kognito’s At-Risk,” a computer-simulation training the college obtained access to through a grant.  The game tests one’s knowledge and gives tips about the best ways to respond to mental health situations or help friends who have a mental illness.

This at-risk training for students and faculty is available at http://www.kognitocampus.com/students or http://www.kognitocampus.com/faculty.  The school enrollment key for each is collin85.

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