May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 1949 to bring increased awareness of the importance of mental health and celebrate mental illness recovery.
“I think it’s really important that they set aside that one month just to raise more awareness because that’s something that’s been kind of ignored or put to the side for a long time,” said Amanda Dahl, a senior studying social work. “I don’t think that we should keep the discussion on mental health just to this month, that it’s something that they should raise more awareness to keep the discussion going longer.”
According to Chadron State College, around 31% of college students have felt so depressed in the past year that it was difficult to function. Fifty percent have felt overwhelming anxiety, which makes it hard for them to succeed academically.
“Students have a lot that they have to juggle and a lot of pressure put on them,” said Tristan Asbury, a sophomore studying social work. “So, especially for students who have underlying issues or biological predispositions, it can just trigger it even more having all those stressors put on them.”
For BYU-Idaho students struggling with mental health, the BYU-I Counseling Center offers free services for students taking at least six credits and living in Idaho. The counseling center offers a variety of different services for depression, anxiety and even just social skills.
Asbury, who also works at the counseling center, said, “If someone doesn’t qualify for counseling center resources there are other resources in the community for students to access.”
Thrive, a BYU-I student organization, seeks to bring awareness of mental health to the Rexburg community. Thrive strives to help students develop positive coping skills. They also host a variety of recreational activities to promote positive mental health.
Thrive offers a five-week program that focuses on fun interventions to help with depression and anxiety. Events take place every Tuesday and Thursday at 5 p.m. over Zoom, and there are two different sessions during the semester.
Over half of adults diagnosed with mental illnesses in Idaho receive no mental health treatments at all. According to Resources to Recover, as a whole the state of Idaho doesn’t have very good access to mental health resources and care. Mental Health America ranked Idaho 49 out of 51 states in terms of availability to quality mental health care.
According to Madison Memorial Hospital, Idaho ranks nearly 50% higher than the national average for suicide rates.
Idaho health officials recognize that there needs to be a greater emphasis on mental health and more accessibility to mental health resources.
“We have a lack of services because we’re rural communities and that makes it that much more difficult to have those services here,” said Doug McBride, the executive director for building management at Madison Memorial Hospital.
The Rexburg community is adding more mental health support, starting with a new behavioral health wing opening at Madison Memorial Hospital, at the end of August.
The behavioral mental health unit is being built due to a large need in the Rexburg community.
Asbury said, by mid-semester the student counseling center is full and they have to put students on the waiting list.
“We’re really at a point now where it’s almost an epidemic for us dealing with the mental health situations,” McBride said. “Right now currently, we are seeing anywhere from one to two patients a day with mental health situations.”
The behavioral unit will be a 12-bed crisis-stabilizing unit, inside Madison Memorial Hospital.
This behavioral health unit will be beneficial to the Rexburg community because a vast majority of mental health patients in crisis need stabilizing but have nowhere to go, McBride explained.
“The closest (behavioral health stabilizing unit) is in Eastern Idaho, right down the way in Idaho Falls … and if they’re full, which happens quite often, then we’ll have to go to places such as Boise, Salt Lake City, Ogden, Twin Falls … to get patients in those facilities, sometimes it takes quite a while to get them into those areas,” McBride said.
If the hospital is not able to get their patients into one of these places, they often have to house them in the Emergency Room, which is difficult for the patients.
The behavioral health unit will have two psychiatrists running the facilities. For more information on the unit, there will be a Zoom Q&A on June 17.
For anyone struggling with mental health, there is hope.
“It’s okay not to be okay.” Dahl said. “It’s okay to get help, find help earlier on rather than later.”