Health starts in the mind

The weekend of Jan. 24 I received shocking news: not one, but two of my classmates had committed suicide. One, whom I graduated high school in 2016 with, had an infectious laugh and charm about him; the other, a beautiful, smart and charismatic woman who I met through the Spanish department at FMU.

When things like this happen, there really are no words that can convey the magnitude of losing such bright, smart people at such a young age. For me, it really hits close to home because I have battled with depression and anxiety and, in some ways, I feel that I can relate to the pain and sadness they both felt before they ultimately took their own lives.

The truth is, I’m sure there are plenty of people, specifically college students, who relate to these feelings of pain and sadness and don’t know how to cope with them. College is a particularly stressful time for most students, and for those of us battling with some form of mental illness, it can almost push us to our breaking points.

My advice for students struggling right now would be to take a break; get enough sleep, exercise and eat well. Sometimes just having a good night’s rest helps relieve stress and puts you in a better mindset. Another thing that works for me is unplugging from social media; research has shown that social media can have a negative impact on our mental health. If only for a few hours, I try to put my phone on ‘do not disturb’ and ignore the outside world and focus on bettering myself and my mental health. These are just a few things that work for me; everyone is different and has their own coping techniques.

I do believe that colleges and universities need to be more active in advocating for the mental health of students. One suicide committed by a student on any college campus is one too many, and there needs to be action behind our words. Yes, we can feel sadness, hurt and anger when someone we know commits suicide, but we also need to start doing things to make a change; not only with our words but with our actions. Everyone should have access to free counseling and low cost or free medicines. While the counselors we have on campus are great, I think just two counselors are not enough to service the entire FMU community and money should be spent to hire more counselors who are available on a consistent basis for students.

An important resource we have access to on campus is our counseling and testing center. The people who work there are extraordinary and do amazing work. I also understand that the university has taken great steps in encouraging students to seek help when they are struggling, but I think we have a long way to go in ending this epidemic.

One thing I want to encourage in the entire FMU community is to choose kindness; kindness with others but most importantly kindness with yourself. Recognize the symptoms and get the help you need, there are so many people who want to help and offer a listening ear. There are many resources out there for anyone battling with depression, anxiety or any other mental illnesses; please, don’t be ashamed to seek the help you need.