Putting Your Mental Health First
by Kasey Mathews | published Aug. 18th, 2018
The stresses of college can build up fast and quickly become overwhelming. Thus, taking care of your mental health early on is extremely important; as difficult as it may seem, there are plenty of resources available to all RIT students to help you at every step of the way.
Take it from me.
I live by the philosophy that busy minds don’t have time to dwell. To some degree, I still believe that’s true. I stay active to keep myself from growing bored and apathetic. Yet, keeping busy is no substitute for taking care of your problems.
Last year I’d been busier than I had ever been before. I was involved in almost every aspect of campus life at some point in the past several months, from being a brother in a professional fraternity to helping organize an educational conference. I helped to start my own club and I got involved in a long-existing one. I’ve worked with Reporter and Student Government and everything in between. So long as I didn’t slow down, I would stay active both intra- and extracurricularly. It kept me active and motivated me to finish my coursework as well as excel in other areas. But I wasn’t happy.
Staying busy can help distract from the small things as you let them pass. When larger problems arise, though, being that busy only helps to add to the greater issue — so I learned the hard way.
My stress and depression stretched my already-fragile sleep schedule until I was no longer able to wake up in the mornings. It was a struggle to pull myself out of bed before noon. I missed classes, had to reschedule several meetings at the last minute and completely blew off responsibilities because I was so unmotivated to start the day. This ended up costing me my GPA.
I saw my grades dropping and it only added to the stresses I was already facing. I had a plan to come back from spring break reinvigorated, but that Tuesday I had already missed a class because I’d slept in. I missed the same class two days later on Thursday. No matter how determined I was to go to class the night before, the morning was always met by apathy and exhaustion.
By the time I finally reached out to my professor to explain the situation, it was far too late. There was nothing she could do for me. It’s important to talk to someone before it gets to such a point.
Similar situations are certainly not unheard of both across campus and across the nation. As pointed out on Psychology Today, a great resource and website devoted to providing information from professionals on many different topics, mental health is a growing concern for 95 percent of college campuses. However there are resources on campus to help students with such crises.
Not everyone will make use of the different mental health resources on campus, but it’s good to know they’re available and how they can help you. Best of all, RIT recognizes that different people work through their difficulties in different ways, so there are a multitude of resources and options for students to use.
"RIT recognizes that different people work through their difficulties in different ways."
The August Center in the middle of campus houses the center for Counseling and Psychological Services. Alongside individual counseling and therapy, group counseling sessions and workshops are also available. Counseling and Psychological Services recently experienced a large expansion, too, allowing for a wider range of capabilities and shorter wait times.
The staff at the August Center are well-trained and always have their patients in mind. Since they operate on a college campus, they also have a more in-depth understanding of the stresses experienced by RIT students. This way they are more in tune with local and conditional factors of mental health.
If Counseling and Psychological Services isn’t for you, there’s also an option to speak to an Ombudsperson. The Ombuds Office is a division of RIT that works outside of policy and procedure to attempt to find a resolution to problems amicably. They are also available to support students and listen to their needs. All conversations with Ombudspeople are confidential and they are not required to report any findings from their talks with students.
The Q Center is available to members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The Q Center is a safe area for students to come to in order to escape the stresses of the campus. They look to promote a welcoming environment and a place to eat dinner and hang out with friends with the comfort of acceptance. The Q Center allows for LGBTQIA+ community members at RIT to empathize with those around them. The center also has experience in helping students with specific issues that may be more common to the LGBTQIA+ population.
For those who identify as a member of the ALANA (African, Latin, Asian and Native American) community, the Multicultural Center for Academic Success (MCAS) can be a great resource to find help. The ALANA faculty and staff empathize well with students and can help to connect students with more resources both within RIT and beyond.
For those who take solace in their faith or spirituality, the Center for Religious Life is also a great option to seek counseling. Its assistant director, Rev. Monica Sanford, is an ordained Buddhist lay minister. She is also a chaplain and has a vast amount of experience in speaking with students and helping them through troubling times. The Center for Religious Life is open to all students, no matter their background for faith, and you're bound to find an organization that fits your religious preferences — whether it be with Cru, Hillel or the Muslim Student Association.
The most important thing is the ability to talk about what’s on your mind. If you’d rather not speak with a professional, talk to your peers — your friends! Your family is always a great support system, too. Otherwise, try writing a blog or a diary. Just seeing or hearing the words can often ease much of the stress.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. With the variety of resources on campus, including more not listed here, there are endless ways to deal with anxiety and depression. Instead of letting it boil over and cause a crisis situation either mentally, socially or academically, try speaking with another person. Having someone there to listen can be a great help. For those on the other end, don’t be afraid to listen. We can only get better as a collective group if we all agree to help each other. Rather than treat mental health as a taboo topic, it should be seen as being just as important as physical health.
So, next time you’re feeling down, don’t just bury your emotions. Talk to someone. Listen to others. Go out and communicate. We are a community. We are a family. We have to show it.