5 Hardest Things About Dealing with Mental Health Issues in College

College is meant to be the most exciting time in a girl’s life. Most of us ditch the silliness of high school and welcome college’s promise of freedom and other adult things with open arms. Countless friends, parties, and no real responsibilities – its an episode of Blue Mountain State, why wouldn’t it be the best time of your life? For many people it is. But for those suffering from mental illness, those amazing experiences everyone craves become tedious and painful. Colleges tend to be open about mental illness with the hopes of getting students the help they need. What they don’t tell you is what it is like living with the illnesses themselves. How can you help someone if you don’t understand what they’re going through? In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month: it’s about to get deep.

  1. Mental illness is the same as a physical illness.

Most mental illnesses are not as evident as let’s say a broken arm or bronchitis. In many cases, the mental illness is just as debilitating, if not more, than a physical one. If someone does not feel well, they deserve medical attention regardless of what it seems like on the outside. you don’t have to be coughing up a lung for mental illness to be real.

2. Mental illness exists regardless of your socioeconomic status or physical appearance.

The stigma really kills in college. With depression in particular, there is so much confusion about what it is and why it happens. The truth is, nobody knows what causes it. There are theories involving fancy brain chemicals or genetics but at the end of the day nobody really knows. All we do know is that depression as a mental illness is NOT just being sad. I have heard so many times, “You’re not poor and you’re pretty, what do you have to be sad for?” Depression is a daily struggle with yourself and your worth. It has nothing to do with how much money you have and other superficial things, and quite frankly those things don’t matter. Its about your perception of yourself, and while those superficial things may have an impact on that perception, it is never a reason to belittle someone’s suffering.

3. There is always so much going on at college.

 The lack of energy, changes in mood, and sleep deprivation are all characteristics of common mental illnesses. When paired with the normal hustle and bustle of a college campus, it can often be too much to handle for someone who deals with these things on the daily. It’s constant tug of war between wanting to be more social and go to parties and have fun and not being able to get out of bed every day because it is just too physically and emotionally straining. Especially when it comes to classes, mental illness is rough. A lot is expected of us in a the high-stress environment we call Oxford, and usually, it is too difficult to get in the right mindset to be successful in studying. Living with mental illness, your mind is usually sprinting at 100mph, probably thinking every unnecessary thought imaginable, so you don’t do well in class because of it. Not doing well in class makes you feel awful, and it is beyond difficult to break out of that vicious cycle.

4. People tell you a lot of awful things.

Of course you can’t really blame them, they just don’t really understand mental disorders.   

Those suffering from them just want help, but they don’t know how to ask for it and they are so used to hearing these things from others that it feels like help will never come. It really isn’t “all in your head”. The hardest part of it all is knowing that you didn’t ask for any of this and you want just as badly to be free of the pain you’re feeling. The best way to help is to offer support, and to be mindful of the things the person may be feeling. Having a friend or loved one who is mentally requires a lot of work, patience, and understanding. It is hard for both parties. But know that the support you give means the world to that person, even if they may not show it. Just knowing that someone loves you and has your back is more valuable than any therapy session or medication. Keeping an open mind and offering support may save someone’s life. It’s that simple. #EndTheStigma

5. It’s very easy to forget…

After all the internal fighting, and the struggle to appear presentable and happy to those around you, its sometimes hard to push through. It is hard to find motivation to continue. But you should always know that you are worth it, and that no matter how hard things get, there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel. If you look in the right places, you’ll find that there are many people who are struggling with their own demons, and can understand your pain. You’re not alone. Just remember to never give up.