Health and well being are a big part of everyday life, and mental health is no exception. Mental health has many different meaning to different people. Just like physical health, mental health issues can arise. A mental health issue is a disorder which habitually affects a person’s mood, thinking, and/or behavior and interferes with two or more domains. These issues can come from genetics and environment. For teens, the stress of school work on top of social life can lead to struggles every day in our community. Many teens experience some sort of mental health issue. Anxiety, stress, depression are just a few.

Changing seasons has a strong effect on mental health. SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, touches many people in the fall and winter months. There are many factors that come into play which cause mental health disorders here in Utah. Our annual inversion is a major contributor to these issues.The lack of sunlight and vitamin D can lead to SAD. Serotonin is a brain chemical which affects mood and behavior. When Serotonin levels decrease, changes in appetite and sleeping occur; this drop can also trigger depression. One effective way to cope with SAD is phototherapy, or light therapy. “Happy lights” mimic natural light for thirty minutes a day, and emit the sun that is missing in the darker months.

People living in Utah are at an especially high risk of developing mental health disorders.  Utah is ranked 5th highest nationally in teen suicides. Last year 44 teens between the ages of 10-to-17 took their own lives, a 33% increase from 2016. On January 17th, Utah’s Governor addressed this horrifying statistic and pledged to assemble a task force to “help develop priorities, then report on effective programs, tools and methods in youth suicide prevention in Utah.” The team was given four weeks to come up with solutions in order to present ideas to lawmakers before the General Session ends for 2018.

So how do we, as teens, address this problem? I believe it begins with being open and talking about mental health. It shouldn’t be taboo or embarrassing. We have to abolish the stigma associated with mental health issues. Pretending like they don’t exist doesn’t stop their effects. We are the generation that can do this because we are so affected by it. Mental health issues can be treated, but only if we are willing to admit they exist.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Mental Health Stigma by Cicely is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

14 Comments
  1. Ceceli 2 months ago

    Cicely,
    I’m really happy you wrote about this topic because it is something that has such a stigma around it. This is an issue that has affected everyone in the senior class and is something that will remain with us forever. This issue is always relevant, especially at our age and location. The question posed at the end of your post really makes you think a lot; like what are some ways that I myself can help to open up the conversation and break the stigma. I found this article about the stigma you may find it interesting. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201308/mental-health-stigma

  2. Mary 2 months ago

    Hi Cicely! I loved your post because I think this is a perfect first step to treating mental illness and lowering the numbers. It is sad because my school’s administration will not let us talk about the kids in my class who have died from mental illnesses because supposedly it glorifies the illness. I believe the contrary that if we talk about them then they will be more easily prevented because others won’t be afraid to seek help. Also your topic on SAD was very interesting because now I am wondering if people in Alaska have adapted somehow to get more serotonin without sunlight, or if they are not at all affected by it. This article about depression in Alaska seems interesting and I think you would like it http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/18/national/in-alaska-darkness-and-depression-descend.html

  3. Cheryl 2 months ago

    Cicely, I really love your research topic. I am really interested in all this information and I think it’s so important to understand and recognize with such a growing suicide rate. All the information you found is astonishing. It’s interesting that weather and seasonal changes has an affect on people with depression. I wish people would take mental health more serious. I found this article I really liked on seasonal mental health! (https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-health-newsletter/how-seasonal-changes-can-affect-our-mental-health/) Good luck with your research!

  4. Chloe 2 months ago

    Hi Cicely!
    I thought your article was really interesting because of the facts you backed it up with. I agree that mental health is a huge issue in our society today, especially in Utah. I have a friend who moved from California and was diagnosed with SAD a year after her move. It is really difficult to understand for people who aren’t effected by these types of disorders because she can be totally normal in the summer, but depressed during the winter. I think a way to address this stigma is not making people feel guilty for taking medicine or getting help for their mental health issues. It seems we have made mental health sound negative in the past and it is time to change that assumption.
    Good job!
    Chloe

  5. Isaac 2 months ago

    Cicely,
    I grew up around a lot of mental illness. My family has a lot of mental health issues, and so do plenty of my friends. While I grew up thinking it was a standard part of life, it surprised me later in life how uncomfortable so many people are with mental illness. In my experience, talking about it, or sometimes even joking about it, as me and my brother used to do, always helped reinforce the fact that I was there when they needed me. I had to make it clear that talking about it was no big deal. When I would ignore the issues at hand, as I tried to do once in awhile, it only made things worse. Mental health issues should never be embarrassing, as the last thing someone needs is alienation from their support system. Your article was cool and I’d like to see more.

  6. Colin 2 months ago

    Cicely, I think your post is one that should be talked about a lot more than it is. Mental health has become a type of embarrassment where if you have it you hide it, because you are worried you will be made fun of. The statistic of Utah really hits hard home for me because I had two male friends who took their own lives. I believe we need to correct something in our schooling system and make people realize it is ok to talk about feelings, and it is not bad for a person to be sad sometimes. This is a topic we can not brush of our shoulder anymore, it is very real. We must make others realize this is a problem and that we need to find a safe place for people to be open about themselves.

  7. Carter 2 months ago

    This is a really well written article and I think it is really relevant topic that needs to be talked about. Many people want to look for solutions to the mental health issue in the United States, but very few people are willing to talk about it. It is really eye-opening to see people writing about this topic and I hope to see more people begin to start dialogues about mental illness around the world. This article on mental illness is really interesting so you should check it out!https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201308/mental-health-stigma

  8. Logan 2 months ago

    Cicely,
    This is a very important topic, especially in these winter months. Mental illness is far more vast than many people realize, and so awareness is key. We have to spread the word, and make people with mental disorders feel comfortable coming out and talking about them. If they do not have any outlet to do this, then the problem just increases.
    I did not realize that Utah has such a high suicide rate. I had no clue so many kids took their own lives. I enjoyed this article (http://www.newsweek.com/2016/10/28/teen-suicide-contagious-colorado-springs-511365.html), and you should check it out.
    Thanks,
    Logan

  9. Judge Thomas 2 months ago

    Cicely,
    I am happy that you brought up this issue. I am shocked to see the statistics that you brought up about Utah being the 5th highest nationally ranked state for teen suicides. I truly believe that the way to stop something sad or awful is to openly discuss it with a large group of individuals. I also believe that the school systems should discuss issues of suicide directly to the students. I feel that school administrators are tentative about directly addressing suicide and so that instead, some of the best ways school systems have addressed the issue is by putting up posters. One website that may help your interests on this matter is, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2017/06/08/why-schools-need-to-step-up-suicide-prevention-efforts/. Thank you for your post.

    -Thomas K.

  10. Andrea 2 months ago

    Hello Cicely, I was really touched by your post after reading it. Many people ignore the fact that they are dealing with a mental illness. It is important for a person to be willing to do something about the situation so that they can be able to make a positive change in their lives. Your post really address the main issues of mental health, you take the time to explain how it is important to do something about this issue and that is important.

  11. Angie 2 months ago

    Dear Cicely, I appreciate you for talking about mental health, it is such a big topic that many other people might not see it as an issue. But in fact it is, where there are people having to cope with their mental health issue. Now a days there are many people dealing with anxiety, I can say I am one of those people. But I am glad you were able to brig this up for others to read and be aware of the stigma behind mental health.

  12. Emily 2 months ago

    Hi Cicely-
    I love this topic. As a person who is personally affected by mental health and has witnessed the stigma that arises from it, I am constantly asking what we can do. As milenials, we are the future of our country and the representative voice. Like you, I want to know what we can do/ if there is anything we can do. I found this article interesting, and I think you might too: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-changing-culture/201510/are-mental-health-issues-the-rise

  13. Lindsay 2 months ago

    Cicely, great topic, I think this is super relevant right now. Living in Utah we can see so many people being affected by SAD, and most of us are close to someone experiencing it. Recently, I have seen a lot more people opening up about their mental health with people they trust, and I think that is a great first step to getting rid of the stigma that we shouldn’t talk about how we feel. I hope more people read your article so that you can help raise more awareness. Great job!

  14. Esthefany 2 months ago

    Hey Cicely, I really like your post because it is a huge eye opener. I agree with you about the fact that mental health should be talked about me so people can be open to asking for help.

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