Your Mental Health Matters

College was the first time I was really exposed to mental health issues. Stress from classes and adjusting to a whole new part of your life is a lot. As part of my job as an RA, I’ve helped people seek mental health treatment. I am trained to see the signs and I know of every resource this campus has to offer. Empathy and kindness are my bread and butter. I’ve preached the importance of taking care of yourself and how you are not alone in your struggle. I did this so well with my residents and friends even; for years I was the helper, the one on the other side. 

 

And then I wasn’t.

 

 

The inciting incident was a breakup. After the initial shock and sadness, I wasn’t finding myself able to restart. It was like the end of this relationship was the Jenga block that brought my tower down. All the good parts of my life -- and there is a lot of good -- just didn’t matter. Waking up for classes was an impossible task. I isolated myself from friends and organizations I love. I cared less and less about my job, which isn’t like me. I couldn’t bring myself to write, the one part of me no incident or person had ever been able to take away until then. 

 

Time kept going on and I still wasn’t the same, really everything seemed to get worse. I was beginning to see the cracks in the relationship and other parts of my life. I couldn’t remember the last time I was genuinely happy to be alone and OK with my thoughts. Exhaustion that had been storing up for months sunk in. I wasn’t always in the moment. Life appeared to be a lot less than it once was and as much as I recognized it, I couldn’t get out of it. 

 

 

Fear stopped me from making an appointment sooner. I didn’t want my family or friends to see me as anything less than strong. I’m a smart, kind, ambitious and creative daughter. The helper, the warm and fun friend, the RA who knows the answers to all problems and the Her Campus exec who gets the job done. I can handle this. I don’t know when or where I had picked up the notion that going to therapy makes you weak and subtracts from who you are as a person. Realizing you need help is a sign of strength, not a fault. 

 

I was also scared my issues weren’t enough to warrant therapy, that there was some checklist and severity scale you had to pass to get help. There isn’t. Actually, lots of people go to therapy for help in working through the rough moments in life. 

 

You don’t have to reach your breaking point to go to therapy. 

 

After going to the on-campus counseling services and deciding I wanted more regular sessions, I started looking for therapists in my area. There were more therapists in my college town than I thought and that destigmatized it just a little bit more for me. More people than you may realize are struggling or have struggled with their mental health. 

 

I had to look for a therapist in my family’s health insurance network. Automatically that shrunk the circle of therapists I could see. I’m covered under my family’s health insurance. I found a therapist in my network that I connected with and I don’t have to worry about not being able to go to therapy because myself or my family can’t afford the costs. I’m lucky -- lots of Americans have health insurance but their coverage for mental health insurance is not there. The 2020 State of Mental Health in America report found, “The proportion of youth with private insurance that did not cover mental or emotional difficulties nearly doubled, from 4.6 percent in 2012 to 8.1 percent in 2017” (Mental Health America). If you’ve read this much of the article or had your own experience with mental health issues, you know when someone is struggling there is already enough on their mind and mental health coverage should not be another weight to carry.

 

 

Culture is shifting and telling us that mental health is just as important as physical health, but other parts of the system aren’t catching up. The same thing that made me nervous to write this article is what urged me to write it. I was hesitant to write about an experience so intimate because the conversation around mental health has been so limited in my life. Only, nothing changes if nothing changes. Going to therapy has added to my life, not subtracted. To the person who is scared to go to therapy, I was you and one reminder that helped me was this; “What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human” (Brené Brown). Don’t see yourself as less than for seeking help. 

 

Resources:

Cook Counseling Center

McComas Hall, RM 240, Virginia Tech

895 Washington Street SW

Blacksburg, VA 24061

540-231-6557

 

RAFT Crisis Hotline:

540-961-8400

 

NAMI HelpLine:

1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or [email protected]

 

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