When to Reach Out for Mental Health Help
As a high school senior English teacher, I get to witness the epiphany that “graduation is coming” on a regular basis. There’s a look that goes with that epiphany, one that says that suddenly, the entire world is crashing down on that student as they realize that they are quickly approaching the edge of the grand canyon of adulthood independence. That look, 95% of the time, conveys one emotion: fear.
The Transition from High School to College is a Big Change
So why do I say all this? It’s because, through my own observations, it appears that it is in the transition to adulthood independence that mental health can most easily begin to deteriorate. In many cases, students go from being in a high school classroom, having the familiar territory of living at home, having the same friends and family close by, to being on their own in a new place and having to build a new support system around them. Not to say that some students don’t still live at home for college, because many do, but they still face the same stress of taking on a new adventure in life called college.
Going off to college in a new city can be a stressful thing for some students. Having to navigate a new living situation, paying your own bills, making new friends, and taking college classes can be a lot to take on at once. It’s no wonder they’re scared! We’ve all been there.
However, the problem now is that so much of this fear goes unnoticed or unspoken of. It builds into feelings of depression and negativity that, if not taken care of, can lead to serious consequences. With this in mind, let’s talk about how to cope with the mountain of emotions that goes with stepping into #adult life.
Creating a Solid Support System
The first thing that I want to make clear is this: you can talk about your feelings and it is okay to do so. One of the leading causes of depression is loneliness, and it is important to have a support network of friends, family, even a teacher to talk to if you are feeling down.
It’s nice to have people surrounding you that may be experiencing many of the same feelings you are. Change and new experiences can be scary, but the process can be a little easier if you have someone to talk to.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are having to make new friends in college, getting involved in student organizations and clubs is a great way to do this. Having conversations with classmates and putting yourself out there to get to know people better can help ease some stress.
As an undergraduate student, I received the Teaching Fellows scholarship for North Carolina and was involved in the Teaching Fellows program at Appalachian. As a result of this, I was thrown into social situations right off the bat that allowed me to make friends quickly and gave me an outlet for conversation when I felt lost as I figured out my way through college. I can safely say that, had it not been for the Teaching Fellows program, my transition to college and adult life would have been more difficult and lonely.
Mental Health Resources on Your College Campus
It is also important to understand the difference between being sad and suffering from depression and other mental health conditions. Most college campuses have plenty of outlets specifically meant for emotional counseling. If you are having a hard time with something, there are therapists and counselors available to speak to, and they are held to a promise of confidentiality.
The American Psychological Association says that 56% of counseling center directors claim that their professional identity is in psychology. The other 46% claim professional identities such as social work, higher education administration, and even medicine and nursing (American Psychological Association). This diverse spectrum of professional identities speaks for itself in saying that, as Albus Dumbledore so simply put it, help will always be given to those who ask for it (JK Rowling).
So when do you reach out as you face the open road of adulthood, in all its overwhelming nature? You reach out now, as soon as you feel the need. Don’t put it off thinking you’re “okay” or “can deal” because if you’re questioning if you need help, you probably do. The mental health resources on campus can help you determine the best course of action for you and give you the tools you need to overcome the feelings you are feeling.
“But no one will understand,” you say. With the plentiful abundance of friends to make, programs to join, and professionals to consult, I can guarantee that someone will.
Don’t face the weight of the world alone.