Panel offers advice for dealing with mental illness

Erase+the+stigma

Erase the stigma

Pulse Editor and Pulse Editor

Erasing the stigma is what members of the Student Wellness Network emphasized to a room full of students during a panel in the Union on Wednesday night.

The panel discussion, a part of the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week hosted by SWN at the University, was for students who had questions about their own struggles or interest in dealing with anxiety, eating disorders and mental health.

Caroline Keller, junior and president of the Student Wellness Network, was one of many people who shared her experiences struggling with anxiety and eating disorders.

“Can’t you tell I’m starting to become anxious?” Keller said.

Keller shared her story to help audience members feel comfortable to ask questions.

The SWN members answered questions and gave advice on issues they had in previous years concerning signs, how to help friends who may have an eating disorder and techniques to help anxiety struggles.

Keller said to portray the best healthy lifestyle choices in front of friends who may be showing sings of an eating disorder.

Stefani Hathaway, psychologist counselor at the Wellness Center, said one thing not to do is “hounding friends” about it.

“Let them know that they really are worried about them,” Hathaway said. “You try not to label them with a disorder; it needs to be a person’s choice to want help.”

Even though some people may be diagnosed with a mental health disorder, Hathaway said you could fix it.

“[People] can result in a period of time, and not necessarily your whole life [with treatment],” Hathaway said.

Over-simplification of these eating disorders in the media is one problem Keller said they might stem from.

“Social media and movies can portray people with a mental illness to the extreme — like depression is where we stay in our beds all day,” Keller said. “They make it seem like it’s completely obvious.”

Eating disorders correlate with mental health because it can lead to different thought and emotional patterns, Hathaway said.

“It can lead to multiple mental issues such as perfectionist, controlling, being out of control and relation elements,” Hathaway said. “It varies but can result in a lot.”

Keller said one way to turn this around is to recognize it is portrayed in a negative light and not something to strive to become.

“To a certain extent, we all experience anxiety,” Keller said. “It just happens to some more often.”

The panel members shared some techniques to the audience to help cope, whether they are going through a mental health disorder or they have a friend who is.

“Yoga and meditation can be a stress reliever,” said Megan Small, junior psychology major on the panel.

Seeing her parents upset was something Small said was one of the most difficult things to deal with.

“Seeing a therapist was an important thing for me,” Small said. “I think it is important for students with or without {a mental health disorder] to talk to someone.”