By Jack Rivera • SFA Contributor February 14, 2017 at 12:26am Twitter Facebook Pinterest Email

College can be a series of tough years for just about everyone. From being away from home to having to make new friends and take care of yourself, several things about university life are far from what we see in the movies.

What they don’t always show you is this – college is draining. You spend hours every week attending classes, studying for those classes, attempting to have a social life so you don’t go insane and then trying to manage your own self-care and the care of your living space. For me, it’s been four years of trying, and mostly failing, to balance all of this equally while staying mentally stable enough to function and be happy.

Remember when your high school teachers were always pushing college and telling you how different it was and how neat it would be? That’s all true, but something we have to start preparing kids for early is the toll college can take on your mental health.

I know right, mental health – the taboo subject that’s slowly making its way into daily conversation.

Thousands of students who attend college full-time suffer from various mental health issues, with depression and anxiety being some of the highest amongst people in the typical college age range (18-24). What’s more is, a majority of these students seek zero help for these issues. A majority of college campuses, including our own SFASU, have free counseling services, but surprisingly, they sometimes go under-used as a resource.

So what gives? Why isn’t everyone hitting up that free counseling and getting their mental health in order? I could give you a slew of reasons right of the top of my head: some of us work in addition to school, some people don’t like talking about their issues, some people have kids, and some simply don’t have time in their schedule because of all of the work they have to do to stay on top of their GPA.

Where we have to start moving to help students with their mental health is by being more open to talking about it. Whether you’re a parent, a professor, or a fellow student, you have to be willing to listen to people when they tell you, “hey, I’m not doing okay,” or you have to be able to notice when someone you love or appreciate isn’t themself. You can’t fix every mental issue with fresh air or a nice walk – but sometimes, even just having someone to talk to can be crucial to keeping someone with a mental health issue from reaching a severe low.

Some ways you could help someone or even yourself are:

  • Being a good listener – especially to yourself. Know your limits and know when it’s time to seek help or take a little break to relax and detox from college mode.
  • Being helpful, not critical. It’s important not to tell people things like, “you’re just stressed. You’ll be fine.” Chances are, if it’s a college student, they’re well aware that they’re stressed. Try to say something helpful, even if it’s just “I’m here for you.”
  • Utilizing free counseling. At SFA, the counseling center will absolutely get you in if you have an emergency, or you can schedule an appointment entirely around your own schedule as long as it’s within their operating hours. This resource could save your life – they’re free professionals who will never judge you and whose goal is to get you feeling better about life.
  • Taking a mental health day. This one can be tough, I know. It can seem like the dumbest thing to take a day off because you’re not feeling okay in terms of emotions, but I promise you, it’s not. Mental health is just as important as physical health. If you were sick, you’d have to sit out on school. If you are feeling severely low or off, I would suggest the same. It’s not for everyone, but for me, emergency mental health days are the perfect way to fit in counseling around my busy schedule and to help myself to feel okay.

This list of things is not conclusive in any way, shape or form, but it’s a good place to start in terms of helping someone or yourself with mental health issues. College is not an easy time, but supposedly, all this stress is supposed to benefit us in the long run. I’m hopeful that that’s true.

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