World Mental Health Day: Talking about mental illness to end the stigma

TUCSON, Ariz. - College -- it's a time many people are away from home for the first time... Expectations are high... And the school work is challenging. With all of this comes stress. 

The biggest single trigger for any symptom for mental illness is stress. And if you want to pick a stressful time in a young person's life, send them to college," H. Clarke Romans said.

The World Health Organization recently surveyed almost 14,000 first-year college students worldwide.

35 percent reported symptoms of a mental illness. Major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder were at the top of the list.

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H. Clarke Romans, the executive director of NAMI Southern Arizona, says there's still a barrier to people getting treatment for mental illnesses.

"Because of the stigma, no kid, no parent, nobody wants to have a mental illness," Romans said.

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But just like any other illness, Romans says early intervention is key, and the best thing parents can do for their kids attending college is to listen to what your children are saying and check for changes in behavior. 

"Notice, is anything changing, are they not eating or sleeping the way that they normally would, or communicating?" Romans said.

And for parents with younger children, it's important to start the conversations early. Most mental illnesses have observable signs eight to ten years before a a person is diagnosed and treated.

People can manage it if they start early and accept that these are illnesses like any other," Romans said.

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