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How to Cope with Mental Illness While in College

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental illness is defined as, “A condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood.”

1 and 5 Americans live with this condition, including many college students, amongst those being myself.

Stress, anxiety and depression are common cases of mental illness reported on college campuses due to many factors including: a student’s work load, change in environment, concerns with failure and/or peer relationships. Mental illness does not go unnoticed; however, it is the responsibility of those impacted to seek help when needed.

The biggest problem with college students is that they feel ashamed to go out and get help from a professional because of embarrassment and opinions from their friends. I’ve compiled a list of support and coping outlets that can help those impacted by the horrors of mental illness behind the scenes. Remember that you are not alone.

1. Visit your school’s support advocacy center

Here at Mason, we have the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), a support center that is located in the basement of our Student Union building. They provide guidance from a large professional staff and trained students who are there willing to help those in need of counseling. Find out where your college’s psychological advocacy center is and schedule an appointment to talk with someone who can help you cope with this.

2. Find what relieves your stress

When I have reoccurring panic attacks, I sing or go to the gym to calm me down. Most people find that staying active during those stressful times helps them keep their mind off everything going on. Try a new a hobby or craft that will put you in a better mood so that you won’t struggle with those dark thoughts. There are always extracurricular activities and intramural sports going on throughout the semester.

3. Talk to a friend

Coming out about my anxiety disorder was very hard for me because of the embarrassment I thought that would follow. However, when I begin to open up more about it, I realized that I had a group of close friends that would be by my side when I endured those dark moments. Reaching out to someone you feel comfortable with to help you with your problems is rewarding because you know that the support is available. You don’t have to struggle with this alone.

4. Breathe

This is the most important piece advice I can give you. When things get tough, just take a second to breathe before you get all worked up and overwhelmed by a situation. Take five minutes to calm down by just taking a breath. I usually take a walk to get some fresh air and breathe when the weather is nice. Meditation has also come in handy with this.

In the end, we all struggle with our own personal battles and have our own methods of solving them. Mental illness is a battle that can be conquered. If you know someone going through it, let them know that they are not alone and try your best to help cope with them.

The resources are out there, it’s just up to us to use them.

Bri Hayes

George Mason University '20

Brianna "Bri" Hayes is a Community Health, pre-nursing student from Richmond, Virginia studying at George Mason University with a strong passion for editorial and journalistic writing. Brianna spent her whole high school career studying communications and media relations under a broad spectrum, including experience in journalism, public relations and marketing, videography, film and production, graphic design, and photography. At Mason, she’s the president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council and a member of various organizations including the Omicron Iota Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Patriot Activities Council, the Akoma Circle Mentoring Group, and Student Involvement. In her spare time, Brianna likes to read and explore new places and things. After graduation, she hopes to fulfill a career in nursing and public health.
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