Mental health is not something you “catch.” Good mental health is like a fire—it must be well tended. The more attention you give the fire, the stronger it becomes.

For some, mental health is a struggle. In fact, mental illness is a daily obstacle for millions of students. Recognizing that mental health is an essential component of overall health, Tech has made it a priority.

Recently, President Peterson and SGA signed a proclamation designating September as National Recovery Month at Tech. National Recovery is designed to increase awareness of mental health and substance abuse disorders.

A 2012 survey of U.S. college students found that 30 percent reported feeling so depressed they had difficulty functioning, 50 percent experienced overwhelming anxiety and seven percent considered suicide. When it comes to coping with these emotions, the study revealed that 31 percent of students reported binge drinking in the last two weeks and 15 percent reported marijuana use in the last month (ACHA-NCHA, 2012).

Prevention works. While there is no equivalent “flu shot” for depression, a large body of evidence supports the practice of wellness to reduce one’s emotional vulnerability to mental illness.

Practicing good mental health through prevention includes getting nine hours of sleep per night, eating three or more balanced, healthy meals per day and getting regular exercise. In fact, studies show that exercising five times per week for 30 minutes can improve your mood as much as a medication might.

Healthy relationships offer social support to help us get through the difficulties of life. Having a friend to rely on for emotional support is one of the best coping strategies we can practice.

Avoiding illicit drugs and practicing low-risk drinking reduce the chances of developing dependence.

Prevention alone is not adequate for all of us. Thankfully, there are resources available for those who need it.

Treatment is effective. Mental health concerns are one of the top barriers to academic success, yet historically, only 40 percent of students who have a mental health concern actually seek treatment.

Stigma is cited as the top barrier to seeking treatment (NAMI, 2012). Reducing the stigma of mental health by courageously taking care of our own mental health and encouraging our friends to do the same can improve everyone’s personal and academic well-being.

Thankfully, the stigma against treatment is dwindling. 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated for a mental health condition in the past year (ACHA, 2012). 18.6 percent of youth ages 18-21 meet the diagnosis for a substance use disorder (SAMHSA, 2012).

This is a significant portion of our campus population. Whether you are aware of it or not, you know at least one of these students.

Know that if you are suffering, you don’t have to feel this way forever. Seek treatment. And if you see a friend struggling, encourage treatment.

People recover. The skills learned through treatment help people lead happy, productive lives—whether learning to set boundaries in relationships, managing stress using healthy strategies or maintaining sobriety on a college campus.

Such a significant number of college students return to campuses after getting treatment for addictions that universities across the country are implementing Collegiate Recovery Programs.

As this portion of the Tech population rises, the GT Counseling Center has expanded its mental health services to include support for students in recovery.

Students in recovery from addiction are invited to an informational meeting and free lunch on September 13 from 12-1:30 p.m. to learn more about these services.

No matter what you choose to do, remember that mental health is essential to overall health. Prevention works, treatment is effective and people do recover.