With the sudden explosion in popularity of Tulane Facebook pages, it is nearly impossible to find someone who hasn’t heard of Tulane Confessions, a page that has posted 1,300 anonymous submissions since Feb. 18. With veracity that is dubious at best, the page features anything from crude statements to uplifting anecdotes and is relatively harmless. The appeal is understandable — Tulane Confessions is as addicting as it is voyeuristic.
As the page has grown, however, it has morphed into a forum for students to unburden themselves of weighty issues that beg the Tulane community’s attention.
“My eating disorder is slowly killing me,” one anonymous user wrote. “But nobody will listen or care cuz im [sic] barely below weight and look normal.”
“I recently lost [around] 20 lbs using Adderall to fuel my workouts and suppress my appetite,” another submitter wrote. “I’m only about 5 lbs from being underweight for my height but I’m terrified of gaining weight so I won’t stop taking it. I’m afraid because I don’t know if I will be able to stop on my own, but honestly being thin is much more important.”
One in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 has a diagnosable mental illness, according to the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Administration. But no one’s talking about it. Instead, people flock to the internet to seek help, and consequently, Tulane Confessions has drawn to the surface a largely invisible issue to the forefront of campus concerns — perhaps by the nature of its anonymous system. Despite its prevalence, mental illness remains unacknowledged, misunderstood and stigmatized.
This stigma manifests itself in a community that neither encourages nor advocates for mental illness education. Tulane Confessions has made it clear that students need more space on campus to voice their concerns or relate to each other about mental struggles.
“I found out my roommate last year was depressed when I saw her medication on her desk,” one user wrote. “I never did anything, never said anything, because I didn’t know how.”
It may seem difficult to understand why friends would dismiss each other’s issues, but without open discourse about rampant depression and anxiety exacerbated by the increased stress levels of a university setting, friends like this may not know better. Their dismissal roots itself not in cruelty, but in ignorance.
While the inherent anonymity of Tulane Confessions prevents knowing with certainty that its content is honest, the similar theme of many submissions seems to illuminate the demand for better mental health services on campus. Many of the estimated 2,000 students with a form of mental disorder undoubtedly receive treatment at Tulane. No one should feel like their friends don’t care about them.
Social support received after proper psychological treatment is the most effective means of a good prognosis. And it’s easy to be a good peer supporter. While Counseling and Psychological Services, Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline & Education and the Suicide Hotline are all available campus resources, talking to friends when concerns arise may be the lifesaver.
In perhaps the most touching of interactions on Tulane Confessions, one submitter wrote, “I have trichotillomania (an impulse control disorder characterized by the urge to pull out one’s hair) but I’m too scared to tell anyone because I’ll be labeled as a weirdo.”
An outpouring of support met the submission. Many shared that they shared the disorder and wanted to form a support group.
“I TOO have trichotillomania!” a user wrote. “I would love to get a support group going for Tulane, but I’m too scared to comment on the trich posts because I’m so embarrassed about it. I got all excited when I saw the posts. It’s wonderful to know I’m not alone.”
“Thank you!” the original submitter replied. “I honestly thought I was just gross and weird.”
Mental illness is more common than people think. While Tulane Confessions may provoke frustration and skepticism, it has illuminated a very important issue on campus. With these pages and support groups like the new organization on campus, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, we can work to eliminate barriers to discussion and make Tulane a safe space.