Right before I submitted my Common Application, my guidance counselor approached me and asked me if I wanted him to notify my schools about my history with depression and anxiety. Without any hesitation, I said no. I came across a similar situation while filling out my student health forms but this time, with a palpitating heart, I scaled my depression and anxiety on a scale of 1-10. I now realize that my hesitation in disclosing my mental illness with my university wasn’t out of fear but because sharing this fact meant that I had to deal with it. That’s why I have compiled these five tips for dealing with your mental illness while being a college student.
1. Notify your Student Health Office about your mental Illness.
Usually, most people are reluctant to let either their school or work know about their mental illness. This may be because they are afraid that the perception of those around them will change. Whatever your reasoning is, notifying your school will let you know what treatment options or support are available to you. Although these options may vary from school to school, you will have the choice of coming up with a treatment plan along with your Student Health Office, such as a free therapy service. And don’t worry, everything you share with them should remain confidential.
2. Keep a log on your state of mind.
I recently got an app where every single day I complete a health log. This includes everything from a headache to your mental well-being. Have you ever had a rash and didn’t recall what caused it? If you have, this is because as humans we forget 60% of the things we have done over the span of a week. In addition to that, when you add the stress of keeping up with your deadlines, you are likely to not have time to check in on yourself. That’s why you should dedicate around five minutes every day to keep a log on your mental well-being. Even if you feel completely fine, jot it down; you can use an app or write it down, whichever one you prefer. Remember that just like you check your phone every morning to see what happened the night before, you need to keep a log on yourself.
3. Enroll in Tuition Insurance.
If you don’t know what Tuition Insurance is, it is simply an annual fee you pay to your school, where in the case that you take time off school, a certain percentage of your school fee is reimbursed to you. I know this sounds like another way your school is increasing your fees, but think about it in the case that, let’s say, you get injured: you would have to naturally take time off from school. Similarly, if you reach a point where you need time off school because of your mental illness then you should do so, without worrying about your financial situation. Of course, this is optional and it is unlikely that you will need it, but with something like mental illness where there are no visible symptoms, it is always good to be prepared.
4. Do things that make you feel good… even if you don’t feel up to them.
You are in a new environment and the things you used to do at home are most likely not applicable to your college life. But that doesn’t mean that you should abandon the things you love to do. On days when you feel like your mental health is getting worse, go for a run. If you enjoy sitting by yourself, do that – do whatever you need to do in order to feel like you again. I know this sounds extremely cliché and insignificant, but the moment you decide to break this pattern is the moment that you realize that in this battle that you are in against yourself, you still hold some kind of power.
5. Take time if you need it.
If it reaches a point where you can’t manage schoolwork along with your mental health, then don’t be afraid to prioritize your well-being and take time off school. I know this won’t solve everything. but at least having the stress of being a college student lifted off your shoulders will enable you to deal with the more prominent problems. This isn’t to say that your education isn’t important, but if it reaches the point where you think you need time off, seek help and discuss your options with a school official. Even just a week might help. Just remember that it doesn’t make you a failure by prioritizing your well-being: if anything it means you are brave for choosing you over everything else.
If you or anyone you know feels suicidal, please call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
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