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‘Places I’ve cried’ and the dangers of normalizing mental illness

audrey-doidge-and-teresa-smith

By Audrey Doidge and Teresa Smith     12/5/18 2:45pm

Crying every day. Not being able to get out of bed. Losing interest in hobbies and academics. Pushing away friends and family members. Feeling intense loneliness and isolation. These are all things you will find on a list of signs of mental illness. These are also things you will find on the “rice university places i’ve cried” Facebook page

For those who are unfamiliar with it, “rice university places i’ve cried” is a Facebook page that serves as a unique platform where Rice students can share their struggles and “cries” with one another. At first glance, this seems like a wonderful place to destigmatize anything from the academic struggles of college to first-time rejections to feelings of imposter syndrome. And it is wonderful and supportive, don't get us wrong. But, we think that people should be careful not to normalize symptoms of anxiety and depression as simply the effect of being a Rice student. 

The page particularly worries us because in both of our experiences, our decision to seek help only came when we decided for ourselves that the way we were feeling was not normal. When you are in a bad place, it is very easy to try to play it off as not being a big deal — mental illness does that to you. It tries to convince you that what you are feeling is an overreaction. We are worried that those seeing posts expressing feelings similar to theirs will view early symptoms of mental illness as a normal part of the Rice experience and might make people think the way they are feeling is inevitable or unchangeable.



We are not writing this article as outsiders from the world of mental illness. We are writing this as people who have suffered from major mental health issues and have gotten better with the help of medication and therapy. To be clear, we don’t think that the page should be shut down or that people should stop posting about their struggles, but we think that the page’s administrators should place more emphasis on going through the difficult and often painful process of getting help. If you are in a bad place, by all means, post on the page and get the support of friends and fellow students. However, know the signs of mental illness and consider that you may need help beyond what your friends and a Facebook page can offer you. And that’s okay. 



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The Wellbeing Center should be transparent about its true confidentiality policies

Before you attend a counseling session at the Rice counseling center, you will be told that “the RCC maintains strict standards regarding privacy.” You will find statements from the university that your mental health record will not be shared with anyone outside of extreme situations of imminent harm, and only then that your information will be shared with only the necessary officials. This sounds great, except that these assurances bear no teeth whatsoever — no enforcement agency ensures that Rice follows its public confidentiality promises, and there are no penalties for Rice if they break them. The Wellbeing and Counseling Centers should more directly communicate the limits of their confidentiality policies when compared to unaffiliated counseling centers, and students in sensitive situations should take the necessary precautions to protect their information.


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