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Mental health 101

author: jael bartnik | multimedia editor

Credit: Victoria Nevland
 

“If you are overwhelmed… it is okay to take time for yourself, to express concerns, and to seek help”

 
University can affect all aspects of a student’s life, both negatively and positively. The stress of finals and schoolwork can be difficult and take a toll on a student’s personal life, physical health, and (most importantly but often forgotten) mental health. Personally, after finishing finals I felt like I wanted to distance myself from school as much as possible. Being finished each final was like a massive relief, and I felt my mood change from anxious and frustrated to being much happier. Everything during finals feels so fast paced, and the idea of failing or doing poorly gave me an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Getting out of the routine of deadlines and feeling like you are constantly being evaluated can disrupt a lot of aspects of your life. If you don’t practice self-care or seek the help you need, it can get a lot worse.

Though I find learning enjoyable, and academic life to be an excellent opportunity that I have the privilege of taking part in, it’s also something I find stressful. Being evaluated with such scrutiny and feeling like you’re trapped under the microscope of academia can create an unhealthy learning environment that takes away from the student’s ability to achieve. No one can actually absorb the information they are being taught if they feel mentally fatigued.

Finals week is the most crucial time when students’ knowledge is being tested. It’s difficult to try to put in maximum effort when feeling drained to the point of depression and anxiety. There has been a noticeable shift in some professors’ thinking by stressing the importance of counseling services. It’s a good start to have authority figures in academia show that there are resources for students. However, occasionally it seems like an afterthought. Mental health is still swept under the rug, and it doesn’t seem like many professors go in-depth as to what resources or supports students can find on campus other than the standard text found in syllabi at the beginning of each semester.

It is acknowledged that students become overwhelmed and stressed out due to the workload of the semester, yet it is still seen as just a symptom of university life. When does that shift from just a part of university to affecting a student so much, they suffer greatly in terms of their mental health? There is a stigma that is still attached to mental illness. A lot of the resources available are a good start. However, academia has a long way to go to ensure that students are provided with care that during the most stressful period of the semester should be thought of as essential. There are resources on campuses for students, but is it really the maximum effort to support students? Perhaps it’s necessary to look at how we can ensure students have access to these resources, let them know that they are not alone, and encourage them to seek help.

Part of establishing resources for help is eliminating the stigma and letting students know that if you are overwhelmed, and if you have issues dealing with stress, anxiety, depression that is a result of school, that it is okay to take time for yourself, to express concerns, and to seek help. Student groups such as Student For Mental Wellness and student groups that provide safe spaces for folks who have mental health issues are essential. Students providing support and letting their peers know they are not alone and can provide students and professors with educational tools needed to understand mental health and how it can affect all people.

We can’t just hope that by mentioning at the beginning of the semester there just happens to be counseling services that they’ll pursue it. Students on top of going to university also have to deal with loans, paying rent and other bills, and personal lives that can also become dysfunctional. There needs to be a shift toward being more mindful of students’ workloads, and the need to have resources available to provide a safe and healthy learning environment.

About Jael Bartnik