SAAC Tries to Break the Stigma around Mental Health

On Thursday, Oct. 3, the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) of Wittenberg University brought in a guest speaker to talk about arguably one of the most important topics in the world: mental health.

SAAC brought in Wittenberg alumna Penny Sitler (‘80) to speak on one of the crucial topics in the world and that is mental health. Sitler is the wife of the kicking and punting coach, part-time professor and Wittenberg alum Gary Sitler (’76). P. Sitler was born in Northampton, MA but grew up in Perrysburg, OH. P. Sitler currently works as the Executive Director at Mental Health America (MHA) for Licking County, Ohio, and has since 2013.

Before being added to the MHA Board in Licking County, P. Sitler worked at Offing Management Company located in Zanesville, OH. She and her husband have two adult children Ryan (who resides in Ashville, NC), and Aubrey (who has a job in public policy and resides in Chicago, IL).

“Mental health affects all of us. Mental health issues do not discriminate,” P. Sitler said.

Mental health has a huge impact on our everyday lives. However, there is a lot of stigma behind mental health in the world. P. Sitler’s speech was centered around breaking the stigma around mental health. P. Sitler started off with many different phrases that were deemed offensive to people living with mental illness: waco, psycho, manic, weirdo, bipolar and more.

“They are hurtful [and], they hit hard,” P. Sitler said. “What I’d really love is for your generation to be the first one to quit using them.”

“It’s okay to not be okay,” is a phrase people often use in the mental health world. This is the phrase that P. Sitler used during her speech. According to facts and figures P. Sitler researched, in the United States one in five people every single year experience a mental health issue.

P. Sitler stated “varying the reasons of severity, it might be a couple of weeks of severe anxiety that are situational in nature, something big is happening or a job change…”

P. Sitler’s also stated that “only 42% of people get help when they have mental health signs and symptoms.”

This shares a lot about how some people who carry signs and symptoms of mental health live in a bubble because they don’t want to be stigmatized.

P. Sitler listed some examples of how huge of an impact mental illness can be by comparing it to physical illnesses people might know.

“If some has what we call moderate depression…severe depression is equivalent to…having quadriplegia (having no use of  either an arm or leg),” P. Sitler said.

With this, a person can sense that living with a mental illness is like “living a physical disability.”

Another subject that P. Sitler’s speech touched on was suicide or suicidal thoughts.

“I don’t want to be grim here, but I would be remised if I don’t talk about having thoughts of death and suicide,” P. Sitler said.

P. Sitler also talked about her experiences as a part of a team in Licking County that goes on the scenes of suicides to help families after suicide happens.

“It is probably the most impactful work that I have ever done in my life, and it is also the most emotionally draining work I have done in my life,” P. Sitler said as tears were falling down her face.

P. Sitler later encouraged the audience to ask if someone is ever thinking about not wanting to be on this earth anymore, please try to get them help.

If you or anyone you care about is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

“Recovery is beautiful, it could happen. It will happen if people can do the work and if they have support around them,” P. Sitler said.

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