Preparing for College
(What I wish someone told me.)
I will be the first to admit that when getting ready for college, my mental health was the last thing on my mind. Actually, I had this crazy idea that all my problems would go away as soon as I stepped foot on campus! Surprisingly that didn’t happen. Actually after the first few weeks of school an overwhelming sense of emotion and stress hit me and I was not equipped to deal with any of it. Below are a few things I wish I had known before entering my freshman year (someone might have told them to me during orientation but not in a way that I heard them!)
1. A new school, new town, new friends, new living situation etc. DOES NOT equal a new life or a new you.
- You will still be YOU in college. So it’s time to start talking about how to support yourself once you get there. It’s really important that you anticipate a level of discomfort and stress. I’m not saying you aren’t going to LOVE college. I’m just saying the reality was a lot different than what I had envisioned in my brain!
2. Know about the resources. It’s great to know all the best places to eat, all the best hang out places and where everyone goes post-football game win, but hopefully you can answer the following questions too:
- Where is the health center? (how do I make an appointment?)
- Where is the counseling center? (what services do they provide?)
- What is the number for campus safety?
- Is the tutoring on campus? (where is it located?)
Even if you don’t end up needing this information YOU may be able to help out one of your friends in a BIG way.
3. Know a few key things about yourself.
- What are my three favorite ways to relieve stress (that are healthy)
- What are some easy meals that I like? (so I can make sure to get good nutrition)
- How many hours of sleep do I need (bare minimum) to function the next day?
- Who are my two support people I can call if I need someone to talk to.
- Finally – What will I do if I am in a mental health crisis? Maybe it’s depression or anxiety or homesickness, or something traumatic happens. Come up with a plan BEFORE you go to school so that you are at ease knowing you KNOW what you will do.
- Finally, what do I enjoy doing that I can do for ‘me’ time? (Colleges are FILLED with stimulation and often times you’ll need some time for yourself.)
I’m in College HELP!
(You’re NOT alone!)
First: if you are in college and dealing with mental illness YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 1 in 4 College Students suffers from a mental illness.
Second: Get Support. Most universities have counseling centers on the campus that you could look up on their website. If you are having trouble finding one try contacting the health center and see if they have more information. If you’re in community school or doing online school and a campus center is not available to you I would suggest contacting your local doctors office and asking for a referral from there.
Third: Depending on the intensity and severity of what you are dealing with something else you might want to consider is taking a semester off of college. I ended up taking Fall 2011 off of my undergraduate work at James Madison University and it was a tremendous help. I wasn’t doing well in school, and I was not able to focus all the needed time and energy on treatment while in school. If you had told me my freshman or sophomore year that I was going to take a semester off I would have laughed in your face – I’m so happy I did today, it really helped me recover.
Fourth: Other offices on you campus that may be of support to you are the office of disability services, the recreation center on campus, maybe a wellness and outreach program. It’s also good to be open with your professors about what is going on. Hiding makes it harder for them to help you, and in my experiences all of my professors have been very supportive of my efforts to purse treatment. If a professor is not supportive I would contact the ombudsman to help mediate.
Finally: College is hard without mental illness. Give yourself credit for the work that you are doing. It’s hard! Remember that your health ALWAYS comes first, and YOU are your own best advocate.
Know you are enough