Breaking the Stigma: Jag Opinions on This Year’s Mental Health Awareness Month

Students and teachers open up on the stigma surrounding the topic of mental illnesses


media by Eila Liu

A graphic depicts the contrasting nature of mental health issues and the masked stigma surrounding it.

by River Brown, Copy Editor

Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of suicide, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression, as well as the negative stigma around these topics.


As school wraps up for the year and the weather finally gets warmer, Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close. Mental health has become an increasingly referred to topic, with the COVID-19 pandemic driving up rates of anxiety, depression, and many other illnesses, according to the World Health Organization. Some may wonder, what exactly is Mental Health Awareness Month?

For starters, a month dedicated to mental illness isn’t a recent creation. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, America began recognizing May as Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949. 

The idea of the month is to, of course, raise awareness around mental health struggles, in addition to helping to break the stigma around such issues. The term “break the stigma” refers to the negative and misguided notions of mental illness. These include embarrassment surrounding the subject and the dismissal of mental illness as a whole.

“I have been through some tough times with mental health and I’m still getting [dismissive] comments from people,” Alexandra Larson ‘25 said. “[Saying things like] ‘you can’t have PTSD, you’re too young,’ ‘can’t you just ignore [your struggles],’ ‘you’re choosing to be depressed,’ ‘If you’re anxious, just stop [being anxious]’.”

But, as Helen Egger, M.D. told Everyday Health, “If the person experiencing anxiety could calm down at that moment, they’d simply do it.”

Other students shared Larson’s view on the stigma surrounding mental health.

“There are a lot of people who just don’t think that [mental illness] exists,” Amie Husband ‘25 said. “Or [they] think that you’re just being dramatic, or want attention. I can’t control it. I don’t like attention. [When] I’m having a panic attack my family [will say] ‘Just calm down,’ but I can’t.”

In addition to the struggles of dismissal, many aspects of life can become overwhelming.

“I think being at a certain age [affects mental health],” Ryan Taguchi ‘24 said. “[In addition to] factors inside and outside of the school, namely the stress. I think some classes give a little bit too much homework sometimes. Recently [there was a kid who] died, so I have a friend who is dealing with a lot of sadness. He’s really affected by that.”


But, there is something each one of us can do to break the stigma, that staff and students agree is helpful: talk about it. 

“People are reluctant to discuss mental health issues, thinking that it means that maybe there’s a weakness in them or they can’t handle things,” English teacher Colleen Lamb said. “But, the reality is that every single human, by virtue of being a human being, deals with mental health issues. [It’s]  the same as the fact that every human has the capacity to get a headache, or a broken bone, or a bruise.”

“By bringing awareness to [mental health issues], yes people are noticing the issue more now, and more people are getting diagnosed,” Larson said. “But, it’s better for people because that is bringing down the chances of someone committing suicide because they don’t know what’s wrong with them. That is bringing down the chances of being hospitalized. If we don’t address it, it’s going to get worse. Even though [people] might not want to talk about it, it’s important to acknowledge it.”