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Waseberg: Public can help reduce stigma related to mental health

Barry McNamara
Visiting Assistant Professor Jonah Waseberg is doing what he can to help call attention to mental health issues.
MONMOUTH, Ill. – A Monmouth College psychology professor is doing what he can to help call attention to mental health issues, especially in western Illinois.

Visiting Assistant Professor Jonah Waseberg, who joined the faculty this fall as the psychology department’s clinical counseling psychologist, said that everyone can be a part of the solution when it comes to addressing mental health.

“I’ve always taught my students, ‘Be part of the movement,’” said Waseberg. “The movement in this case is anti-stigma.”

The stigmatization of mental health essentially has a double impact on those who are suffering, with the mental health issue itself being compounded by how others react to it.

“The person is already going through a lot due to mental issues such as depression and/or anxiety,” said Waseberg. “Then stigmatization can overwhelm the person and leave him or her feeling ashamed and judged. Stigmatization is very real in our society, and it is enhanced by the media, such as comedians who use phrases like ‘bipolar’ or ‘crazy.’”

Some people struggling with mental health issues even fear being stigmatized by those closest to them.

“We see people being afraid that their friends or family will know,” said Waseberg. “Maybe they even hide it from a spouse or partner, afraid that the other person will break up with them.”

How everyone can help

Waseberg said a few simple things can be done to combat the stigmatization of mental health.

“You don’t have to be a therapist to support someone who’s going through mental issues,” he said. “Often, they just need a listener and someone to support them. You can also show that support by encouraging them, accepting them and not judging them. There are so many ways that we can be a part of the anti-stigma movement.”

Waseberg said that colleges can also play a vital role in the effort.

“If students are going through mental health issues, we can encourage them to find a way to not be afraid to talk about it,” he said. “Some aren’t ready to talk about it yet, but for those who are, communicating can be very helpful.”

Other work

For Monmouth’s upcoming spring semester, Waseberg will teach “Abnormal Psychology” and “Cultural Psychology,” as well as the introductory psychology course. He will also lead a support group for students, in collaboration with the College’s counseling center.

“The support group is open for all students who struggle with mental issues,” said Waseberg. “The purpose is to support them and help them to know that they are not alone. All students who struggle with such issues are welcomed in this group.”

Waseberg has also had discussions with Monmouth’s psychology department to study how to support therapists in the region through workshops, providing a closer source for some of their required continuing education credit hours.

A virtual reality project that Waseberg presented to his department has also been approved, and his department colleagues have been looking for ways to fund it.

“Virtual reality is by no means a new technology, yet it is increasingly being used, to different degrees, in education, training and therapy,” said Waseberg. “Virtual reality can be used across different disciplines for a range of different purposes, which will help our students in many different ways.”

Waseberg earned a doctorate from the Chicago Theological Seminary, one of two major institutes involved equally in his coursework and research, along with the Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis. He also did his post-graduate psychoanalytic fellowship at the Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis.

His doctoral research focused on traumatology (trauma studies) from perspectives of psychoanalytic psychology. Psychoanalysis is a set of theories and therapeutic techniques related to the study of the unconscious mind, which together form a method of treatment for mental health disorders.

In addition to his teaching experience, Waseberg has also worked as a clinician in inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient facilities, and is now doing outpatient work at a private practice in Chicago.