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Letter to the editor: When talking about mental health, avoid generalizations, be mindful of words

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Letter to the editor:

In wake of Ohio State senior Kosta Karageorge’s death, many fellow Buckeyes and students have opened up  dialogue about concussions, and the resulting feelings of isolation and confusion these injuries may bring.

A tweet from the OSU Undergraduate Student Government Twitter account Sunday evening read, “What if we treated mental illness like physical illness?” The tweet also included a link to the Office of Student Life’s Counseling and Consultation website page on Suicide Prevention and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. After my request for clarification of the language, the account @usgosu explained in a message that the tweet was in reference to a Huffington Post story that addressed divisive societal treatment of those with physical and mental illnesses.

Firstly, I want to make it very clear that I am so glad USG is making attempts to foster positive experiences for all OSU students, and that by providing awareness for the aforementioned resource, they are doing what they can to prevent self-harm. I would also like to commend their speedy response to the loss of a member of our community, which has proved to be emotionally troubling for so many. This letter is not about USG, and it is not about a tweet. This letter is about ensuring sensitivity and awareness in addressing how we see all illnesses, be they physical or mental. It would be dangerous not to address this issue, and by doing so, I hope to promote harmony and awareness at OSU and beyond.

There is a broad range of mental illnesses, and not all end in suicide or involve thoughts of suicide. It is a perhaps  concerning generalization to speak on how mental illnesses are treated and then link a broad collection of possible diagnostics to a suicide hotline and suicide resources. It is also important not to juxtapose illnesses in two categories. Mental illnesses and physical illnesses are very often interconnected. Those that experience physical ailments often have emotional experiences tied to those ailments. On the other hand, those that have been diagnosed with mental health ailments sometimes experience physical effects of their diagnosed ailment. Concussive episodes are a good example of the duality of the experiences resulting from head trauma.

One of the worst things about concussions is that you feel an immediate disconnection from those around you. You feel isolated within yourself. You feel like an observer of the world around you, and not a participant. This is often horribly frustrating. For those that may experience depression as well, this feeling may be exacerbated. Concussion and depression form a duality of feelings of hopelessness. A lot of dialogue is being opened up about the subject, and now is the time to build awareness. Thankfully and positively, our community and the nation is standing in attention to the causes of self-harm in wake of this tragedy.

With an issue that is so sensitive, inclusive language and responses are crucial in creating a safe and loving environment on campus. Our campus community should embrace each individual’s experience. Utilizing words and actions that do this is something OSU students, faculty and staff should be engaged in at all times.

The best thing we can do is treat each other well, be thoughtful and mindful of our words and actions, and be empathetic to the challenges each individual faces. More than anything, I wish I would have known Kosta Karageorge personally, and it hurts to know that he was a member of this campus community. Perhaps we could have talked about how concussion isolation feels. For friends, family and acquaintances of someone that might feel this kind of isolation or any kind of isolation, know that you can be the first line of defense. Reach out to them. Text them. Call them. Invite them over. Visit them. Do whatever you can do to let them know that they are not alone. Buckeyes, be there for one another.

We should reflect on the loss this campus has faced as a time to examine our actions and responses to the people around us. We should all feel empowered to help someone else know that they may have another option. Sometimes it can be hard to see the light in such darkness, and on the other hand, it can also be difficult to see darkness in so much light. The bottom line is, love and friendship are the answer to a spectrum of issues.

Morgan Ann Johnson

Second-year in public affairs

johnson.4987@osu.edu

2 comments

  1. This is a wonderful letter to the editor. Thanks Morgan for showing your perspective, I think you hit the nail on the head. Well done!

  2. Usg blows. They took away mirror lake

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