Written by: Nia Turner & Siya William-West
One of the biggest struggles in a college student’s career isn’t procrastination or freedom, but their constant battle with mental health. Administrators, faculty, and staff’s usual response always involves the counseling services that are provided on campus. The administration may even give us a mental health day, but that only occurs once throughout the school year. Students on campus still pose the question “Why is this not enough?” Coming from not only a student but a student leader, I may have a few answers. I just hope the campus is ready to have this conversation.
Before getting students to even think about going to counseling services, how many faculty and staff members have sincerely asked why students don’t go to counseling? It’s sad to say but a lot of students have preconceived notions about counseling. I have heard things like “Why would I tell a stranger my business?” or “If I want to talk to someone, I’ll talk to my friends or someone I trust.” There are also students who have said they just keep things bottled up and keep it pushing. Growing up there was no way for them to express their emotions. They were told showing emotions was weak and never let them see you sweat, almost as if showing emotion is not a human characteristic. How do we break students out of this toxic thought process, if even possible? I have yet to hear anyone have conversations about this. If there are conversations like this happening, they need to be in more open spaces and more frequent.
Everything cannot be put on administration, faculty, and staff, as students we have to do a better job of trying to find and utilize what’s already on campus before we say nothing works or the administration does not do anything about the well-being of their students. I know the majority of the campus either doesn’t use the counseling services, doesn’t know where it is, doesn’t bother to look, or they don’t know that we have those services on campus. We have to start taking accountability and realizing a lot of the things we ask for are already on campus. If we don’t start educating ourselves on the resources provided when we go to them with our concerns they will ask us “Did you know that this was available.” The conversation ends the minute we say no because we did not bother to look and take advantage of what was already here.
Maintaining a balance between your academic and social life can play a huge part in your mental health. I would suggest finding a club or organization that is not associated with any type of academics. That could be the choir, band, dance organizations, modeling organizations, or even a mental health organization. Being around people that have the same interests as you can help you learn to express yourself in different ways. That’s what dance has always done for me. When I cannot get my words together I can use my body to say what my words cannot and it has helped me every time in some way. If you have tried this and it hasn’t helped or you feel like it’s not enough, in the wellness center on the second floor, right above health services is the counseling center. If you do not feel comfortable talking to someone right away, there is a meditation room you can utilize. Sometimes all you need is a quiet space. If that doesn’t help you either, you can meet with someone in person or they have a partnership where students can receive nine free sessions with a therapist virtually. Speaking from personal experience, a lot can change in nine sessions. If there are students that know of more resources please share them with your peers! We are all just trying to graduate and keep our sanity.
Mental health will forever remain a topic within the black community and on this campus specifically. As a collective, we have to do better in addressing the mental health issues that plague our community, being as though the majority of us don’t know how to effectively express our emotions and share what is going on with us. If we don’t help ourselves first, we won’t be able to help anybody else who may need it. Change starts from within so I ask you, when was the last time you either asked yourself or someone asked you “Are you okay?” and you answered them truthfully?