Sister Reyna I. Aburto second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, spoke candidly about mental illness and suicide in her women’s session address Saturday evening. The BYU community would do well to follow her example.
BYU students suffer from chronic perfectionism which often leads to serious anxiety or depression. The demand for therapists at Counseling and Psychological Services far exceeds the supply. Our campus even lost a student to suicide last year. Yet despite it all, we struggle as a community to talk openly about our mental and emotional health — even though this open conversation might be exactly what we need to heal.
Talking about mental health can erase harmful stigmas and invite others to be honest about their pain. “When we open up about our emotional challenges, admitting we are not perfect, we give others permission to share their struggles,” Sister Aburto said. “Together, we realize there is hope, and we do not have to suffer alone.”
I teach Sunday School in my YSA ward. I’ve found that as I’ve been vulnerable and open in my lessons about difficult experiences I’ve had, other members of my ward have also opened up. As we candidly discuss our struggles together, we feel united and validated and create space for healing.
Such conversations have the power to save lives. As Sister Aburto taught, “Talking about suicide in appropriate ways actually helps to prevent it rather than encourage it.” BYU CAPS holds regular trainings on how to talk to someone you think might be considering suicide. If we take the time to learn this skill, we can feel confident in our ability to help others in times of crisis.
It’s time to stop avoiding hard or uncomfortable topics — with so many members of our BYU community suffering, we need to take responsibility for one another. If we participate in the conversation on mental health, we will find, as Sister Aburto promised, that
depression “thrives in secrecy but shrinks in empathy.”
Daily Universe Opinion Editor