I didn’t see Silver Linings Playbook when it came out. I’m a month older than Jennifer Lawrence, and Bradley Cooper is pushing 40. Watching the two in a romantic comedy wasn’t my idea of entertainment.

But then it got nominated for a bunch of Oscars. I’m a sucker. Now I’ve got to see the bipolar-boy-meets-sex-addict-girl love story.

If not for the romance, at least I’d better watch it for the commentary on mental health. Because when Hollywood is willing to associate a famous and good-looking cast with serious topics of neurosis and depression, it’s probably worth a watch.

McMaster’s Student Wellness Centre ran Stop Out the Stigma events last fall. They sought to acknowledge how common problems of student mental illness were on campus.

Along with Silver Linings Playbook, it asserted that helping people first means making it okay to admit that they’re in need of support.

Other efforts, particularly out of the MSU, have tried to help students going through a tough time.

The Student Health Education Centre (more than free condoms) launched a campaign this week to promote their peer-to-peer counselling services. The student-run MSU service asks, “Want to talk? We want to listen.”

Also running is the new, and only somewhat redundant, Peer Support Line, whose members are also “here to talk” to students.

Meanwhile, the Student Wellness Centre is offering counselling services and online resources to students.

But there’s an important piece missing. Someone can talk to their peers or try to self-help all they want. But, for a lot of people, recovery won’t start until they get one very meaningful thing: a diagnosis.

And it’s not just about treatment. It’s about attitude.

Maybe your girlfriend/boyfriend broke up with you. Maybe school’s a lot of work. Maybe you’re homesick. Or maybe life’s fine, but for some reason, you’re not happy in it.

Getting anxious or depressed as a result doesn’t mean you’re weak. But it might mean that you’re sick. That’s a meaningful distinction to give someone.

Yet professional, medical approaches to student mental health are lacking on campus. Wait times are too long at the Student Wellness Centre, and the office doesn’t have the resources to do much other than refer students to other doctors when the going really gets tough.

The will to help is obviously present at McMaster. And SHEC and the Peer Support Line are offering necessary services.

But for every service that’s “here to talk,” there needs to be one that’s “here to treat.” Someone needs to be able to respond quickly and completely when a student’s mental state turns to illness. Students aren’t going to be the first ones to admit, or even realize, that what they’re going through requires more than a talk from a peer.

Anyway, I hear Silver Linings Playbook is still playing at Westdale Theatre. Anyone want to go?


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