Courtesy of Strong 365 guest blogger, Alisha Alyn
When Wilmington High School senior Jessica Lifton enlightened the school committee about the mental health of fellow students, it was a sign that some form of change might just be on its way. Lifton is one of the many students in high school and college who aspire to complete their studies despite suffering from mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, and psychosis. In fact, Psychology Today reports that 3 out of 100 people can have a psychotic episode in their lifetime. But like Lifton, a mental illness shouldn’t stop someone from succeeding in their education. Here are a few things you can do to help you through college if you suffer from a mental illness:
Many with mental illnesses go through life undiagnosed and untreated because of the stigma, shame, embarrassment, and financial concerns. UCLA senior biology and religion major Megan Larson, is proof of that. “I did not really talk about what I was going through,” Larson said. “My family didn’t even know. Even though I knew it was okay to seek help and I needed it, I still had that internalized stigma about being in therapy,” she added.
It was not until her sophomore year that Larson voluntarily joined UCLA’s chapter of Active Minds, a non-profit organization looking to raise awareness among college students. After being surrounded by people in the same situation as her, she decided to ask for help. Her decision to seek treatment with the support of her school was a huge step forward.
Join support groups and find new hobbies
Try not to go through your journey to a healthier and more positive mind alone. Joining support groups and trying out new hobbies can help improve your mental health more than you know. Christopher Biehn, a sophomore at Ithaca College, who suffers from bipolar disorder, started a black and white photo challenge to raise awareness about mood disorders. Larson, on the other hand, keeps her mind busy by knitting, coloring in pictures, crossword puzzles, and competing in archery tournaments.
Find the right college
For Larson, class discussions at UCLA could boarder on unbearable, especially when she had a panic attack, but she would sometimes seek help from her lecturers. For Biehn, since going to college, he has had to take three medical leaves—fortunately, Ithaca College was more than accommodating. They have a counseling center and a number of on-campus resources for students.
Being diagnosed with psychosis isn’t the end of your academic journey. Besides getting help and following your treatment plan, as well as finding the right college is important. A good college should at least have a support program for students who have been diagnosed with mental health issues. In the Maryville University guide to changing colleges, they note that you have every right to transfer schools if you do not like the current situation you’re in. College is one of the most important times in a student’s growth, and spending 3 or more years at a place that doesn’t support you could be detrimental to your future.
Rewire News reports that this is the case for Stanford students who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. A representative of the university allegedly told Stanford student “Emily W.” that she was a “liability” and “people like you tend not to succeed,” after she attempted to end her life in 2013. Being a victim of discriminatory policies and practices like these can be avoided if you look for a college that supports cases like yours instead of turning you away.
Interested in learning more about mental health?
Check out our resource hub, strong365.org.