DU student brings awareness to mental health

Max Marcello | Staff Writer

Oct. 27, 2022

Mental health is an issue millions of university students experience across the United States. Despite its growing prevalence in personal lives and society at large, it still remains a highly stigmatized and taboo topic to discuss openly.

Friday Oct. 21, Resident Assistant, Zach Seddon hosted “Let’s Talk”, alongside Luke Fabisiak from Duquesne’s Counseling Services, to discuss how mental health impacts students as well as begin the process of destigmatizing mental illness.

Fabisiak is a practicum student for the university’s counseling services, and he led the session. His approach to mental health well-roundedness splits the topic into five more manageable subgroups: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and environmental health. By taking this approach, mental health becomes a more approachable and manageable topic. Mental wellbeing can be improved on the whole through improvement of its pieces said Fabsiak.

Fabisiak said another way to help mental health is to reframe instinctive criticism. It is natural for someone to turn self-reflection into unhealthy self-criticism. This cycle can lead to low self-esteem and create more problems than it solves.

Fabisak recommends that people reframe self-evaluation from ‘I suck at this or I can’t do this,’ into statements such as ‘I can improve by…’ People who take the reframing approach are more likely to make tangible progress towards mental wellbeing. Fabisiak is currently working toward a master’s degree with the hopes of becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Following the discussion with Fabisiak, the group was encouraged to begin creating artistic renderings that reflected what mental illness looked like to the individual.

“Mental health to me is the good and bad habits people perform and develop.” said Kyle Chauvette, a sophomore music student.

Students’ illustrations featured themes such as depression and dementia. Seddon emphasized the uniqueness of art as it serves as both a medium of expression and a form of therapy as many people find art to be a relaxing activity. Seddon talked about the importance of making it a topic where everyone has a voice and the conversation can be open and nonjudgmental because mental health plays such an important role in lives and society. Seddon acknowledged mental illness has a real tangible effect on our communities and how we respond to it can produce different outcomes.

One such problem Seddon is committed to resolving is the disparity between the sexes regarding mental health.

“Men’s mental health is a pet project of mine,” Seddon said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in 2020, roughly 80% of all suicides were committed by men. Mental health activists such as Seddon point to this statistic as a call to action to not only raise awareness but also change wider societal perceptions.

One such strategy is likening mental health to physical health, as physical illnesses such as heart disease and chronic inflammation are not branded as the failing of an individual nor something to be ashamed of. Mental illness on the other hand, are still commonly viewed as the exact opposite, placing the blame not on physiological causes but rather on the person.

Altogether, mental illness is an enigma psychiatrists, psychologists and patients are all trying to better understand. Various therapies, activities, and rituals have both clinical and anecdotal proof of effectiveness. However, these habits are not as valuable as seeking treatment from a healthcare professional. Societal stigma regarding mental health is still discouraging people with mental illness from seeking treatment. By removing this stigma and the sense of self blame, those suffering from mental illness will be emboldened to seek the help and resources they need to improve their lives.

Students can visit counseling services in 636 Fisher Hall, free of cost. They are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.