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I Was Fine, Until I Wasn’t: Why Colleges Need to Support Students’ Mental Health

Spring semester of 2019 was one of the hardest periods in my life. I was taking genetics and accelerated biochemistry among other classes, working as a campus tour guide, apartment hunting, and just had way too much on my plate overall. Initially, I thought I could handle it but as the responsibilities piled on, I was losing the ability to juggle it all. The stress of school and life became unbearable. With no outlet to relieve my stress and with finals looming around the corner, my mental health took a turn for the worse. 

One morning, I woke up feeling anxious about all the work I had to do for the day. Then, I was unable to catch my breath. My heart was racing and my hand clutched my chest as I tried to calm down. I had no appetite, but I knew I couldn’t skip meals so I sat myself down and tried to eat a bowl of cereal for what felt like forever. This went on for weeks until I had lost a significant amount of weight. My mental health was now affecting my physical health and something had to change. I was skipping class and falling behind on assignments which made my anxiety even worse. My education was now at stake.

For some, going to college is not only just about taking classes. College comes with many stressors and challenges both in school and at home that can take a huge mental toll on students. Students might work to pay tuition and rent. Some students come home to an apartment full of family members where it’s hard to concentrate and study. For other students, despite their hard work, they were unable to pass a class, lost their financial aid, and now have to worry about bringing up their GPA and paying for classes. Others may have to care for a child while both in school and at home, which can take a mental toll. With COVID, new stressors have been introduced and old ones have been amplified. On top of doing school online, some students are now primary caregivers to sick family members. Many are also dealing with the loss of loved ones. too. Now more than ever, students need more mental health support to get through their daily challenges. 

Colleges and universities need to prioritize the mental wellness of students and work to break the stigma surrounding mental health by making various services and treatment options widely available and accessible, such as counseling, therapy, group sessions, and campus wellness activities. In addition, mental health providers on campus should be diversified. Mental health counselors should mirror the diversity of the student population so they can better address students’ challenges from a cultural standpoint. Allocation of more funds, resources, and as well as time and dedication of college officials to cultivate a rich environment for students to thrive mentally is imperative. 

Therapy has done wonders for me — it’s by being an outlet for my stress and teaches me coping techniques to cope with stress. Because of therapy, I haven’t felt the crippling anxiety that once limited me in 2019. I have a better outlook and can be more focused. can be a more focused student with a better outlook. In the future, I hope to see every student receive the help they deserve.

Lucresse Tato is a student at CUNY School of Medicine/Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, and a Spring 2021 Young Advocate with YI-New York.