Students work to overcome stigma around mental illness

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According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in 20 American adults live with a serious health condition, but people living with mental illness, believe there is a negative stigma attached to it.

Michigan State University student, Jazmine Skala-Wade was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD, when she was 11.

Michigan State University student Jazmine Skala-Wade

Alyssa Richardson

Michigan State University student Jazmine Skala-Wade

“People have this idea that mental illnesses aren’t real, that you need to pray them away, that you are making it up or that you are crazy,” Skala-Wade said. “I have been judged and looked at as crazy. People have made up stories about my mental illness and I’ve been treated like I shouldn’t be smart.”

Skala-Wade said she’s doing things in college that people did not think she was capable of because of her ADHD.

“People didn’t think I was capable of being admitted into MSU, I did that. I have plans of being a doctor, so I’m studying medicine, while being on the executive bored of Black Student Alliance.

“I don’t believe I’m defying the odds,” Skala-Wade said. “I just haven’t allowed my illness control my life.”

Myya Jones, president of MSU’s National Pan-Hellenic Council, wrote about her struggles with bipolar disorder in an article published online by The Huffington Post. She urged people to reduce the negative stigma often attached to mental illness by talking about these issues more.

“I have come to realize that conversations surrounding mental health and sexual assault are too often overlooked,” she wrote. “These issues plague our community, but are seldom acknowledged and thought of as taboo.”

As members of MSU’s Black Student Alliance, both Jones’ and Skala-Wade have helped the organization make mental health and mental health education a priority.

“There is a stigma within the black community that mental health and depression isn’t real and we, as a people, need to pray on it or pray everything away to make things better,” Skala-Wade said. “BSA has decided to dedicate one week a semester to mental health, and it’s typically during finals week because that’s when students tend to be more stressed.”