Strangers occupied the three surrounding beds in my dark hospital room. A nurse removed my shoes and confiscated the string from my short’s waistband. Fear and anxiety overcame me while I lied on that bed at 3 a.m. My two weeks inside CenterPointe Hospital had just begun.

I was 13 when depression first came into my life and like so many before me, a doctor prescribed me an antidepressant. It helped for a while, but over the next four years, depression slowly overwhelmed my life. I had no motivation for life, and suicidal thoughts consumed my mind. That’s when I entered CenterPointe and started the best two weeks of my life.

Two weeks of constant therapy and no phone. Therapy included your usual group talk sessions but ranged to music therapy, art therapy and dog therapy.

Some of the stereotypes of mental hospitals are true. I watched an out of control kid get put in a padded room where they couldn’t hurt themselves or others. But the truth is a mental hospital is a wonderful place where people that need help can get it. I met people like me, with depression and anxiety. I met people with anger issues and others that saw demons and could hear color. Normal people with not so normal problems.

The sad truth is that mental health has become an epidemic not only across the world but on our BYU-Idaho campus as well. According to a National College Health Assessment survey, nearly 40% of college students have “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” within a one-year time frame.

Practicing psychologist Aaron Harris worked at the Behavioral Health Center in the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls.

“Given the underlying nature of crisis and the stress they are in, most patients find that the staff were easy to interact with, the therapists were supportive and helpful and that they made good connections with other patients on their unit,” Harris said. “Once many patients, and their families, see what hospitalization is really about, then they recognize how good it felt to be safe and that many of their misperceptions about ‘going to the nuthouse’ were proven to be unfounded.”

The BHC in Idaho Falls contains 72 beds split into four different units. Two units designated for adult care and two for adolescent care.

“Psychiatric hospitalization has long had an extremely negative stigma attached to it,” Harris said. “This (recent) shift in perception about psychiatric hospitalization, along with slowly improving views of mental health overall, have definitely demonstrated an improvement in the public’s perception of mental health issues. We are definitely on a track towards normalization of mental health conditions in our society.”

Mental health should not be taken lightly. Seek help if you need it, and don’t be ashamed of your condition. BYU-I offers free counseling at the Counseling Center.

Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255