I obviously can't say anything about the details of the interactions with students, but the latest of these interactions left me with a strong feeling that I should do more to be an advocate for removing the stigma from discussing mental health. Mental health care *is* health care after all. And we should all be talking about it with the same concern as we talk about any other illness treatment and prevention service.
It concerns me that young people (I work with college students, so 17-22-ish) still feel like they have to talk about having depression or anxiety in hushed tones. Calling in sick for the flu is no big deal, but calling in sick for a depressive episode? Those sick days are taken quietly, with the reason kept between a select few. I try to be open about my own issues, but it's not always easy, and it breaks my heart when I see the "to tell or not to tell" struggle happen with my students. Luckily some of them do talk to me, which means they are talking. I feel heartened (and a little freaked out, to be honest) that they see me as somebody with whom they can talk. I hope that, as my kids grow up, they feel that they can talk to me too. And maybe in 10 years, when my kids are looking at colleges, asking about mental health support will be as de-stigmatized as asking for directions to the library.
For the time being, I'm glad I work at a college where I can honestly tell students and parents that there is support on campus, both institutional support as well as many, many wonderful staff, faculty, and students who make the best allies I've ever known. Every day I get to work with a community that inspires me to be a better person. How cool is that?