Let’s make mental health a priority

Six weeks into the semester and I can already feel the anxiety forming into thought clouds above my head. Will I pass statistics? How much work will I be overwhelmed with this week? Is having a social life really necessary? I’m sure you’ve asked yourself questions like these before and if you haven’t, well, then you’re lucky. As college students, we all experience some form of stress. But what happens when that stress develops into something greater? Is it worth sacrificing mental wellness for the sake of success?

Danielle Shorr, junior creative writing major

Danielle Shorr, junior creative writing major

That’s a complicated question that I’m sure would elicit a variety of responses depending on who was asked. My answer is simple: Put your mental health first. In college, it isn’t hard for stress to become harmful or develop into an issue of mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year. And if we are to consider those who haven’t sought help, that number would be even higher.

During my freshman year, I struggled with anxiety to the point where it became crippling. I often found myself panicking through the waves of schoolwork and external pressure. Luckily I was able to confront it before it became too difficult to manage. Today, I still struggle with mental illness and it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Even though stress can trigger everything from periods of depression to bouts of anxiety, I’ve learned how to confront the issue. For me, my mental well-being is a priority that I make sure to acknowledge and take care of on a daily basis.

When it comes to school-related stressors, I often find myself struggling to find a good balance between doing well in school and doing well mentally. Although I can’t speak for everyone else who deals with similar issues, I can say that I’ve personally felt that at Chapman, mental health is heavily undervalued at times. Some professors may not accept anything less than a doctor’s note for an absence to be excused, which prompts me to ask, is putting one’s mental health first not a good enough reason to miss a class?

What if a student who has just come down from a period of mania needs the next day to recover? Are mental health issues and mental illnesses not considered to be as valid as physical disabilities? I believe that the recognition of mental health-related issues on college campuses (and specifically Chapman’s) is necessary to maintain a successful student body. It’s not just the acknowledgment of its presence that is crucial, but also the empathy for those who are struggling.

While I understand that expectations are high, it is necessary to take care of yourself. Achieving mental wellness may require different things for different people. For me, it means getting a full night of sleep and making sure I eat enough throughout the day. It also means letting a professor know when I’m struggling, or skipping a sorority meeting to catch up on lost sleep. Some may call it a lack of balance, but knowing that my mental health is a priority to me is what helps me the most. So whether prioritizing your mental health means taking a few hours a day to relax and watch Netflix or seeking professional help from the counseling services, it’s important to make time for it in your schedule. Grades, activities and social events are important, but are also temporary. A healthy life and your overall well-being? That’s lasting.

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