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Zeta Sigma Chi talks “MENtal” illness

Last Tuesday, on March 28, over 60 students met in Lecture Hall 1 to discuss the fact that men, do indeed, cry. Zeta Sigma Chi, supported by UMBC’s National Alliance on Mental Illness club and brothers in Pi Kappa Pi and Phi Beta Sigma, hosted a “MENtal Health” talk. ZSC held the event to “have a conversation on the stigmas against men and their mental health.”

The meeting began with a focused but light-hearted game of jeopardy. The attendees, most of which who were affiliated with the hosting organizations, laughed as individuals showed off their knowledge of athletes, pop culture and media as well as campus resources. Despite this, the hosts made it clear that the next two portions of the event, the presentation and the open discussion, would be much more serious and sensitive for some.

“Of the 151,781,326 men in America, 6 million men are affected by depression every year,” said one of the ZSC hosts. The NAMI host went on to speak about the five most common types of male mental illness: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis/schizophrenia and eating disorders. Many individuals seemed stunned when the hosts rattled off statistic and facts, for example, that about 3,020,000 American men have a panic disorder, or that men under the age of 30 make up about 90 percent of psychosis and schizophrenia cases in America.

The event hosts explained that mental illness in men is worsened by how media portrays the ideal man. One male audience member even said, “When my mind doesn’t match what I see in the media, I feel alone and like less of a person.” The media’s portrayal of men truly sets men up for failure in their mental health. Its effects make men more likely to conform to social norms, to downplay their symptoms and to be less likely to talk, express emotion and seek treatment.

Despite the very personal nature of the topic, many individuals, both male and female, spoke up about their experiences with mental health when the event transitioned into the open discussion portion. Crowd members expressed the importance of doing this, saying that “guys don’t like to open up.” One individual said that “some of us don’t know how to talk about it. We’re worried about what people will think. Us guys definitely have a hard time telling our friends exactly what’s going on in our minds.”

Many students spoke about how they like to cope with stress and improve their mental health. One male student said that he likes to “go home and spend time with my little guys:” his two cats. Another male student said that he liked collecting important photos of his life and that he would go back and look at them whenever he felt anxious. Another liked to watch comedies, another liked to listen to trap music and another liked to sit and mediate.

The event leaders were sure to encourage the crowd members to visit our on campus resources: NAMI, the Counseling Center, the Women’s Center and the Mosaic Center. They also encouraged participants to visit, which provides free and reliable online mental illness screenings and to keep in mind the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. One individual in the crowd expressed his gratitude for the event. “I’m glad that this event is happening. I feel like there’s no where to talk about our mental health to this extent with other students. This really needs to happen more,” he said.