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Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | APRIL 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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Erase the stigma on mental health

It’s time to end the stigma.

Last semester was the hardest point of my life. It wasn’t because I had just started my first semester of college and I was struggling to stay on top of my course work. Last semester was difficult for me because I spent half of the semester struggling with thoughts of self-hatred, hopelessness, and wanting to end my life. It took me until the week before Thanksgiving break and an emotional but supportive phone call with my mom to finally push me to go to the University Counseling Service and seek the help I needed.

The reason it took me so long to seek help wasn’t based on any sort of financial concern. It took me a long time to seek help because I felt that people would look at me and say that my life hasn’t been bad enough for me to want to end my life. I felt that if I sought help for mental illness, people would view me as being broken and that my peers would view me as being less than them because I wasn’t able to deal with life.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, the stigma surrounding mental illness is the No. 1 reason college students do not seek treatment. If we really want to be able to help those students in our community who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, we first need to end the long-standing stigma surrounding mental illness. We need to reassure students that they aren’t defective, but that they are ill, and it is not only OK for them to seek help, it is imperative they seek help as they would for any other illness.

Jeremy Vogel

Fixing disparities

Many people have responded to the UI mass email for the event “Black Girls Do Science” and have wondered aloud why such a program exists. I would first off like to iterate that the program is open to all and encourage families to sign children up. Few in our community would dispute that there is an overall disparity with all women in STEM fields and an overall agreement to host programs to try to fix this problem. For example, the UI Chapter of Society of Women Engineers has programs, such as Girl Scouts Science Day that are hosted annually to encourage all girls in Johnson County to get into STEM. 

While these programs are great, they do not necessarily address issues specific to both the racial and gender disparities in STEM.  For example, black women make up only 2 percent of engineers and scientists in the United States, in comparison with white males and females making up about 50 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Thus, our program seeks to augment, not replace, these programs by focusing on the intersectional disparities being black and a woman means in STEM. I can continue to spew statistics, but for some people that may not be enough to answer their questions of why our event is not racist. Many acknowledge the problem of gender and racial disparities in science education but may not see a program such as Black Girls Do Science as the cure, and that is fine. But the fact remains that women minorities are often underrepresented in STEM disciplines. Black Girls Do Science helps promote an interest in science and provide role models for minority girls in our community. One day the phrase “Black Girls Do Science” will be redundant instead of inflammatory. That is a goal our program hopes to accomplish.

Bryne Berry
UI NSBE Black Girls Do Science Committee head


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