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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Mental health deserves top priority

    It’s that time of year when stress accumulates, building up to a breaking point around midterms and leveling off for another couple of months, only to rocket up to astronomical levels by the time finals come squealing around the corner.

    For some students, there are numerous ways to manage stressors, whether it’s going to the gym, hanging out with friends or indulging in creative or extracurricular endeavors and activities.

    For others who are plagued with a mental illness, such as clinical depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, heightened stress levels due to school, work, relationships and financial worries can be a trap that is inescapable if the right avenues aren’t pursued to seek help.

    Good bailout news came in the form of an enhanced mental health insurance law that was part of the bill that President Bush set forth on Friday. The New York Times reported that the law is “”the result of 12 years of passionate advocacy by friends and relatives of people with mental illness and addiction disorders. They described the new law as a milestone in the quest for civil rights, an effort to end insurance discrimination and to reduce the stigma of mental illness.””

    According to the article, the law “”will make it easier for people to obtain treatment for a wide range of conditions, including depression, autism, schizophrenia, eating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse.””

    The Times credited Sen. Pete V. Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, and the late Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone from Minnesota as setting it in motion because of their own children’s mental illnesses.

    Andrew Sperling, a lobbyist at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, was quoted in the article as saying that, “”Under the new law, we will probably see more aggressive management of mental health benefits because insurers can no longer impose arbitrary limits.””

    The NAMI website reveals a 2006 report card on the American mental health care system – with the national average grade being a D. Arizona was stamped with an overall grade of D+ and the sixth highest suicide rate. Hey, at least we’re not Idaho, Montana, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky or the Dakotas, which all got Fs.

    The word that is always thrown around when talking about mental health is “”stigma,”” but it’s the most appropriate way to describe how difficult it is to discuss one’s mental state with roommates, friends, family, co-workers, teachers and significant others. There’s a real fear for some that these confidants won’t understand what you are going through or will look at you differently.

    Although academics are undoubtedly important, it’s worth stressing (no pun intended) that taking care of yourself and ensuring you’re in a sound mental state should be priority number one. There’s a tendency for some people to think that medication and therapy are just another sign of our country going to pot – if we’re doped and can blather to someone about our problems, then everything will sort itself out sooner or later. While I can understand a certain degree of cynicism about both of these things, the fact remains: mental illness is often genetic and needs to be treated. Undoubtedly, these methods are not fail-safe, but it’s also up to the individual to somehow get back to a tolerable state.

    College can be an intensely taxing time, but there are a number of things that I can think of that are more stressful: being in a combat zone without weaponry, losing one’s entire family to Mormon hitmen, being held accountable for all of the nation’s problems or accidentally killing someone’s pet. No matter how poor off you think you are, there’s probably someone out there who can top it.

    The Tucson Citizen reported that various events will be available as part of National Mental Illness Awareness Week, which started on Sunday. These will be free and open to everyone.

    The National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery will be observed on Tuesday, with services at both Catalina United Methodist Church, 2700 E. Speedway Blvd., and Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church, 3201 E. Mountainaire Drive, at 6:30 p.m. A lecture pertaining to genetics and depression will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday at University Medical Center’s DuVal Auditorium, 1501 N. Campbell Ave.


    – Matt Wavrin is a media arts senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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