The Stigma of Mental Illness
To the Editor:
As a Dartmouth student with a mental illness, I can personally assure you that there is stigma surrounding mental illness on campus -- both from students and professors (The Dartmouth, "We wanted to create an event for reducing the stigma about mental health issues on campus," November 12). To deny that is to deny the daily struggles of all the students who silently fight with a mental illness while trying to maintain their studies and relationships. It is to deny the students who have had friends recoil in discomfort when learning about that student's illness, and the students who have struggled in a class where the professor didn't understand or care about the school's disabilities policy. As one of these students, I am thrilled that Dartmouth is taking a proactive stance and teaching the campus about mental illness and its effects. Every Mental Health Awareness Week means that I can be a little more comfortable talking with people about my illness.
Further, Maio says, "I am always amused by people who want to reduce the 'stigma' of some other group, and who assert its existence in the process," (The Dartmouth, "No Need for Rudeness," November 16). This seems to assume that the people organizing mental health awareness week swooped in out of the blue and magnanimously decided that the stigma surrounding mental illness would be their next injustice to attack. This is simply not true. The people involved in organizing this program have intimate experience with mental health issues, through friends, family or themselves. They have seen this stigma firsthand. They are not making it up.
To assert, as Maio does, that there is no stigma surrounding mental illness, is not only to be completely blind to reality, but is patronizing and offensive to those who know better. Finally, as for Maio's assertion that the Disabilities Office should respond to the "infraction of rights" he has invented, I say the Disabilities Office deserves three cheers for all the students they have helped through the years. All of us are eternally grateful for the support and caring that has helped us get the best experience possible from our years at Dartmouth. And the organizers of Mental Health Awareness Week -- three cheers for them too.