Psychologist urges those suffering with mental illness to seek help

Dr. Kay Jamison addresses BYU students about mental illnesses during a forum address on Feb. 26 in the Marriott Center. (Arianna Davidson)

Clinical psychologist and John Hopkins psychiatry professor Dr. Kay Jamison discussed the importance of speaking up about depression and bipolar disorder during her Feb. 26 forum address.

Jamison addressed the problems of mental illness and suicide in high school and college students. “The good news,” Jamison said, “is we know a great deal about psychiatric illnesses and their treatment.”

According to Jamison, depression and bipolar disorder are common. Approximately one person in every 100 will have bipolar disorder one and between 2-3 percent will experience a milder form called bipolar two.

She expressed her concern about rising suicide rates with untreated illnesses. Jamison said at least 70 percent of adolescents who die by suicide were suffering from potentially treatable depression or bipolar illness.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in college students, according to Jamison. She also discussed her illness and attempt to take her own life. This struggle, according to Jamison, began in her adolescence and persisted into her professional years. 

Jamison had her first breakdown when she was 17 years old. Since her family didn’t discuss mental health issues, Jamison explained the difficulty of her experience.

“It was frightening and terrifying at the time but it is very treatable,” Jamison said. “But I kept these things to myself as best I could.”

However, Jamison stressed the importance of being open and seeking help about mental illness. She urged students not to shy away from keeping to themselves about mental illness because it could ultimately save their lives as it did hers.

“If you are depressed, seek help,” Jamison said. “If you know someone you care about, or maybe you don’t care about, seek help. What you or they have is treatable and the treatment will make all the difference.”

Help is available for those struggling with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached toll-free, 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255. BYU counselors are available 24 hours a day for students in crisis. 

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