Addressing Student Mental Health Issues at MIT

Published in the November/December 2014 issue of the MIT Faculty Newsletter

Editor's Note:

The following article was submitted to the Faculty Newsletter by the MIT chapter of Active Minds, a student-led initiative focused on promoting better health and wellness, stress relief, and health education through peer-to-peer outreach.

You see MIT as an enriching environment for students to grow in unique and exciting ways – and in many respects, you’re correct. After all, MIT students find themselves amidst the most influential scientists, innovators, and leaders of today and tomorrow, all in an institution known for its world-class education. However, as the typical onset age of mental illness is between 18 and 24, and one-in-four students lives with some form of diagnosable mental illness, many students struggle with mental health at some point while at MIT. Most do so in silence.

Mental illnesses, unlike most other illnesses, are still shamed and stigmatized, discouraging those living with mental illness from getting help or speaking out about their struggle. In fact, as many as two-thirds of students who could benefit from professional help don’t get it. And, although mental illnesses can be extremely difficult to live with, many of those struggling with them manage to nearly completely hide their struggles from those around them – even their closest friends and family. Stanford University refers to this concept as “duck syndrome,” likening the illusion students create of effortless success, despite actually feeling distraught or overwhelmed, to the illusion ducks create of peacefully gliding on a pond while actually paddling frantically. When nobody appears to be suffering from a mental illness – as relatively few cases of mental illness are readily apparent – it can pressure others to maintain a facade of composure to the detriment of their well-being...

Read the complete Faculty Newsletter article