Mental health is a sensitive subject, especially in college when most students tend to struggle in silence rather than talk to someone. In an open conversation with recent Boston University graduate, Zoe Hawryluk, we cover all there is to know about mental health in college.
Although talking about mental health in college is becoming more commonplace, there is still work to do. When asking Zoe if she felt the severity of the stigma around mental health was decreasing, she said: “I feel like the easy answer is yes, but I feel like the harder answer is no… since we are all so aware of it and talk about it more than our parents’ generation.”
Zoe specified that it is not really younger generations or college students contributing to the stigma; instead, “it is between the adults, administration, and the students. It is very rare to have professors who understand when you go to them and say you are struggling and have them say ‘it’s okay, take your time’ or have them alter the assignment for you.” Thankfully, Zoe did have professors this past semester who were understanding of her mental health and worked with her to alter the course work when she found herself struggling. Expressing your struggles to a professor, or any adult can be daunting, but in cases such as school work, communication is vital.
There are resources on every campus to find help if you are struggling with your mental health. Unfortunately, being in a large research institution makes these resources harder to access. Smaller schools are able to provide more direct and individualized care, whereas at a bigger school like Boston University, you may need to reach out a few times and be on a waitlist before you encounter a helping hand.
“They keep raising our tuition, saying it is for student health services and behavioral medicine. We aren’t really seeing that increase in assistance. Between my freshman year and my senior year, I have not seen a difference in the amount of help, which is none,” Zoe said. It is hard enough to reach out to an adult, but not getting the help you need when you do reach out is even harder. However, this should in no way turn you away from asking for help.
Photo Credit: Prince William County
Your mental health changes during your college years as you adapt to a new environment—especially if it is your first time living away from home.
“I think for students coming in as a freshman, it is really important to have a really solid support system,” Zoe said. When all these changes are happening and you feel alone, it is important to have people you can reach out to and trust. Zoe also emphasized the importance of a good therapist, “even if you don’t think you need a therapist… you need a therapist.”
Zoe chooses to Facetime her therapist so she can communicate with him whilst at college and while she was abroad without difficulty. “He typically does facetime and that is something that is becoming a lot more common,” Zoe said. Finding a therapist is half the work, and then finding one that fits for you is the other half.
“There is nothing harder than being in college and having to call to find a therapist,” Zoe said. Trying to balance school, social life, and your mental health can be tough, and reaching out can seem like more than a hassle, but the reward outweighs the cost tremendously.
Photo Credit: Harvard Business Review
A big part of caring for your mental health is finding things you enjoy. College is a stressful time and it is easy to feel alone and drowning in school work. “I tried really hard at the beginning of the year to find clubs that were of interest to me,” Zoe said.
Zoe did this by going to Splash, which is Boston University’s club fair that is at the beginning of the fall semester. This is how she found Her Campus, which seemed like the perfect fit.
“I didn’t necessarily have to audition for something or put myself out there right away since I wasn’t in the place to do that,” Zoe said. Zoe stuck with Her Campus all four years of college and ended being the campus correspondent of BU’s chapter. According to her, “just finding a tight-knit group of people and signing up for any activities and clubs you’re interested in,” is extremely important in college.
One of the big issues with mental health across all ages is the lack of education on different issues. Although the labels of mental disorders seem to become more normalized the actual disorder is rarely understood. Zoe clarifies that a common response that she gets from other people is, “I can deal with the fact that depression and anxiety exist but… I am not capable of standing up for this person and helping them.” The lack of education makes it even harder for others to get help. If the people around someone struggling or they are unaware of the signs of a disorder, how are they going to reach out for help?
If you or a loved one is struggling with their mental health, please tell a trusted confidant or call a behavioral health center. Do not be afraid to reach out, you are not alone.