By: Samuel Smith, Columnist
Finals are coming up, which can be a huge stressor for most (if not all) college students. And stressors, such as finals, can trigger emotional feelings. These can be normal, like feeling stressed, worried or even a little bit anxious. But for some of us, these stressors can trigger a mental health change, such as a depressive or manic episode. For some, it triggers their eating disorder. For others, it triggers dissociation or depersonalization.
For me, whenever my mental illness is triggered, I can feel immensely guilty about it. I feel guilty because I sometimes can’t even get out of bed to go to class or work. I get overwhelmed. I withdraw. I cancel appointments. And I feel guilty about all these things.
I feel guilty because I think “It’s just mental health! It’s no big deal!” Or sometimes I think about stopping my medicines because either they’re not working (when I’m depressed) or I don’t need them anymore because I’m cured (when I’m manic). Or I think that I must be faking it, that I’m subconsciously doing it for attention. But, I never think about a physical illness that way. I never think me or a friend of mine should stop their meds for a physical illness, or that they’re cured, or that they’re faking it.
Mental health is just as serious as physical health. When you have the flu, you take a day or two off to recover. You go to the doctor if things don’t get better. Why is mental health any different? When your doctor prescribes you an inhaler, or EpiPen, you use it as instructed. You don’t go off the medicine your doctor gave you without instruction. If you have a chronic condition, like hypothyroidism, and your doctor gives you a long-term medication, you don’t stop taking it simply because you “feel better” because your feeling better is directly caused by the medication.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, seek help. If your friend is struggling, encourage them to seek out treatment. Sometimes, treatment is therapy, sometimes it’s medicine, sometimes it’s both. In any case, it’s perfectly acceptable and normal to receive treatment. Mental illnesses aren’t any less severe than physical illnesses.
If you’re dealing with a mental illness episode, and you need to take a break, that’s perfectly okay. Your mental and physical health come before anything else. I mean it. It comes before work, school, anything in your life. If you need to take a day or two to rest, to stay at home, to gather yourself and figure out how to best cope, then do it. You wouldn’t go to class if you had the flu or a bad cold, so don’t do it if your mental health gets that bad.
And finally, if you’re currently suicidal, homicidal, or wanting to self harm, please reach out. You can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911. There’s also the Baltimore County Crisis Response at 410-931-2214. If it’s between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM, you can go to the Counseling Center. It may seem scary, but trust me, it’s so worth it.