“It’s not worth it; I’ll find another route. I’ll start a business and be my own boss. My family needs me. I need money, so I’ll quit school and work.”
There are so many students quitting school because it’s just so hard to balance with everyday life problems. Increased counseling services can help students remember why they enrolled and help them develop coping mechanisms to continue. My own story is about mental health and its importance on my higher education journey.
My first two years at community college were difficult; I quickly realized I had to transition from a high school mindset and adapt to college. My transition into adulthood was rough as I was considered an independent student almost overnight, meaning I needed to support myself. Therefore, I needed to work part-time while going to school full time. While I am from the south side of Chicago, I rented an apartment in Pilsen while a student because home was not a supportive environment. I paid rent, along with other bills, and necessities like food, while simultaneously trying to keep up a good GPA.
While most of my suite-mates/peers were going away for the holidays, I didn’t feel comfortable going home. I fought so hard to get away from the realities of where I came from. There was a lot of violence in my old neighborhood and adversity within my family.
I utilized the counseling services at Harold Washington College, which helped me immensely. After community college, I transferred to a four-year university, and going to counseling was no longer viable due to my schedule. I was so determined to overcome the obstacles of my past that the pressure to be successful resulted in juggling even more commitments than ever before. I ended up dropping some of the obligations I had because I was so overwhelmed. You can’t get good grades while juggling multiple priorities. The overextension took a toll on my mental health. Burnout was very real for me. I was mentally drained. However, I used the coping mechanisms I learned from counseling to my benefit.
I graduated from the University of Illinois in Springfield in May of 2020. However, my journey is far from over. I am still packing a full plate while juggling graduate school and a career in child welfare. I am now employed with the State of Illinois as a child protection investigator.
College is tough, but the difficulty isn’t just in the classroom or curriculum; students are faced with ever-growing challenges. It is time that investments into campus mental health services reflect the very different reality students face. Action is needed now. All it takes is elected officials investing in mental health services on campus. In addition, awareness and funding need to be increased for mental health services at higher education institutions.
Brianna is a motivated, ambitious Christian committed to continuing her education and advocating for the things that matter most to her. One support that has made the journey of higher education manageable for Brianna is mental health services.