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Providing visibility for mental health resources in JMU's on-campus bathrooms would be beneficial to students.

Feeling anxious about returning to a lively campus after a year of isolation is completely normal. While everyone eases back into their usual routines academically and socially, students should be mindful of their mental health. JMU could alleviate some of the tension by exposing students to more campus resources revolving around mental health, and it begins in the bathrooms.

Next time you’re inside of a campus bathroom facility, look around at the walls. JMU’s sexual assault resource boards are usually screwed into the wall, enclosed in a clear casing providing vital information for those who need it. Mental health resources should also be given the same attention and be posted in campus restrooms. 

Sexual assault resource information being displayed in every bathroom signifies that the university is aware of the possibility that students may be involved in difficult situations. 

The boards provide a 24-hour hotline and numerous departments students can reach out to on campus. Now that the world is transitioning back to normal lives, JMU should recognize that poor mental health is an additional threat that students could face this year.

Posting mental health resource boards in bathroom facilities generates a feeling of privacy. If a student is in need of mental health services, they’re less likely to feel timid when they can snag the information with no one looking. It’s all about privacy and not feeling any judgement. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April-June 2020.” With the return of students to campus, especially freshmen, a new wave of anxieties have hit. 

“I was anxious about returning to classes,” freshman kinesiology major Avery Fernandez said. “I cried the first week of classes because my Office of Disability Services form hadn’t been approved to record class lectures."

JMU has 21,496 students enrolled, and a vast majority of this year’s freshmen haven’t attended face-to-face classes since March 2020. Therefore, it’s fair to assume this unique experience could affect students academically and socially. The U.S. Department of Education conducted a survey of college students where “respondents also reported having trouble maintaining a routine and staying connected with others.”

It’s easy to feel small in a sizable community like JMU. It’s even easier to suffer in silence when resources appear to be nonexistent. College students are among those most at risk for dismissing the status of their mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “45% of those who stopped attending college because of mental health related reasons did not receive accommodations.”

By incorporating the mental health resource boards in campus bathrooms adjacent to the sexual assault boards, JMU could minimize the stigma of reaching out for help.

If JMU is seriously committed to “being the change,” then these statistics regarding mental health should be taken into consideration. It’s essential for students to remember their mental health is equally as important as their physical health.

Having mental health resource boards sufficiently exhibited in clear casings and hammered into the wall could also potentially enhance the university’s reputation as an institution that cares about the mental wellbeing of their community.

Let’s be clear: The proposal of mental health resource boards is in no way an act to dismiss the importance of the sexual assault resources. The proposal is to simply recognize that both issues could affect students, and both resources should be constantly visible.

JMU offers counseling resources, community clinicians, COVID-19 mental health options and mental health emergency assistance. However, this information is predominantly found on the university’s website, which isn’t always the most effective way to display information. People search for convenience and rummaging through a website could cause irritation. 

Mental health deterioration can be a silent killer that travels through college campuses annually, and even more so this year. According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness, “20% of college students say their mental health has worsened under COVID-19.”

Allowing mental health resources to be constantly visible to students would serve as a healthy reminder that people are available and willing to listen. Mental health issues are not limited to a specific group of people. They can affect anyone.

​​Aniyah Mulligan is a junior communications major with a concentration in public relations. Contact Aniyah at mulligag@dukes.jmu.edu.