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2013-2014 Common Experience Theme

Minds Matter: Exploring Mental Health and Illness

The 2013-14 Common Experience program will explore how perceptions of mental health and illness affect our thinking, laws, actions, and quality of life.  Nearly half of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives—a lifetime risk that is about the same as the chance of developing cancer or heart disease.  However, unlike heart disease and cancer that typically occur in later years, half of people with mental illness are diagnosed by age 14 and three-quarters by the age of 24 years.  Poor mental health can contribute to low self-esteem, decreased productivity, school dropout, and even suicide—a leading cause of death for college students. Good mental health is clearly of great importance to college students.

Despite its importance, many of us are uncomfortable discussing our mental health.  Commonly used words like “crazy”, “nuts”, and “crackpot” contribute to stigma and discrimination that are major barriers to informed discussion and help seeking.  Minds Matter will raise awareness and open a dialog about mental health questions to foster understanding, compassion and perhaps reduce the stigma attached to mental health disorders:

  • What is mental health?  Lifestyle choices, habits, and surroundings can contribute to good mental health at home, schools, and in the workplace.
  • What is mental illness?  Conflicts of interest among pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and psychiatrists raise questions about both diagnoses and treatments.
  • Should illness ever be forcibly treated?  Compulsory treatment is avoided in the absence of imminent danger to oneself or others, until one has been charged with a crime.
  • Are creativity and depression linked?  Some historical studies suggest that mood disorders are more common in highly creative people.
  • Are psychiatric disorders linked to crime?  Brain disorders can blur the traditional boundaries that divide immoral behavior from the symptoms of illness.
  • Where is the appropriate balance of individual rights and public safety?  Gun ownership, medical privacy, and community safety are hotly contested with no easy answers. 

The 2013-14 Common Experience will encourage students, faculty, staff and community members to recognize the importance of balancing human rights, freedoms, and creativity with effective social services, business practices, educational programs, and healthcare in support of good mental health.  Participants will develop a better understanding of the causes of recent events said to be related to psychiatric conditions, while they increase their knowledge of the worldwide consequences of mental health and illness.  As in previous years, everyone at Texas State University and beyond is invited to participate and organize events.

1.    Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.

2.    Leading causes of mortality among American college students at 4-year institutions.