Mental health concerns in a time of uncertainty

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Mental health affects students, especially with constant changes due to COVID-19.

You are trapped in a tank of deep water. As you tread water for a long time you start to get tired. It feels like you are wearing full body armor made of lead.

 

You feel like you left something at home. You are not sure what it is though. You check your pockets and everything appears to be in check, but regardless you continue to ruminate.
What do these things have in common? They are all metaphors for mental illnesses.

 

Extreme fatigue is a common symptom people who experience form depression suffer from. Simple daily activities require tremendous effort. People suffering with anxiety, often have a continuous feeling of dread, i.e. continuing to feel nervous after a big test is over.

 

Senior nursing major Lanee’ Boyd has experienced these struggles first hand. After receiving her diagnosis of two major mental illnesses in 2019 she has become an advocate to end the stigmas around mental health conditions as well as bring awareness.

 

She says the negative stigmas surrounding mental health disorders are one of the main reasons people aren’t open about their struggles.

 

“Growing up I saw movies and television shows with people in mental hospitals with crazy hair and stilted speech or straight jackets and those images are what I associated mental health conditions with,” Boyd said. “For a lot of people I’m sure this was their experience as well.When I got a diagnosis the first thing I felt was shame. I didn’t want my friends or family or professors or employers to know that I was “damaged”.

 

Boyd credits her friendships as something that has encouraged her,“knowing that I wasn’t alone or had someone to lean on has definitely helped me to get out of bed some days. My friends are amazing in the sense that I can disappear for weeks because I’m overwhelmed with life and our friendship will resume as if nothing happened.”

 

Her advice to those whose friends have mental illness is simple,”listen without judgement if they choose to open up to you and check in regularly with them.” Boyd noted, “ it’s important for the person suffering from the mental health condition to reciprocate. I often check in on my friends to make sure that their mental and physical well-being are both okay.”

 

COVID has brought a new set of challenges for everyone, Boyd says that due to the pandemic she knows a lot of people who are, “struggling with the loss of loved ones from COVID, the loss of work, and the loss of freedom since they can’t leave home or attend events freely.”

 

Those who are suffering from mental illness,are being affected incredibly hard due to the virus. Boyd finds it difficult to stay in good spirits as, “the political climate is heated and I always see so much negativity everywhere.”

 

Boyd goes on to say, “there’s a lot of uncertainty right now for everybody and I know that can have a negative impact on everyone’s mental health.”

 

Many of the people who struggle with mental illness are fortunate to have a support system,or an outlet.For many it’s their family,friends or therapist. However with new restrictions and guidelines, they aren’t able to visit friends as frequently if at all.

 

Boyd has found that one thing that has comforted her during this time is hobbies. “My therapist suggested journaling and I can definitely say that it is something that definitely helps me. Writing down my feelings and thoughts or just being able to put my emotions into words helps me to better understand them.” Boyd said. “I also really enjoy baking. I’m not good at it but I spend a lot of time in my kitchen mixing up random recipes that I find online. For me it’s soothing.”

 

When it comes to Henderson better serving students who have mental illnesses,Boyd recommends they simplify the process. She shared her less than stellar experience, “I received an email about the new scheduling system that they have for the University Counseling Center and in order to complete the forms from my phone (which were just the old forms that they scanned into the system). I had to download an app and it was so time consuming and tedious that I never completed it.”

 

Boyd went on to add, “a google form or something else simple that can be filled out without a 3rd party app would be helpful for students to schedule appointments.”

 

Senior English and History major Christine Bostian shares some of the same sentiments as Boyd. “I think some people aren’t open about their struggles with mental health for a few reasons. They don’t want to seem weak or appear to have problems” Bostian said “maybe they don’t want to be judged or they may not want to actually own up to it and address it.”

 

Bostian also uses hobbies as an outlet “some things that I do to improve my mental health are running and working out because it helps to serve as an outlet. I also like to do little arts and crafts things, like macrame or painting which sounds silly but I find it very relaxing and it’s nice to do something just for fun and not for school or anything like that.”

 

When it comes to how effective Henderson’s resources are, Bostian thinks, “ HSU has good resources in regards to mental health”. Her only suggestion is making those resources more visible, “I feel like most students aren’t really aware of them. I think they need to make sure they know what resources are available to them and who they can talk to.”

 

If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call the Counseling Center at 870-230-5102, the University Police Department at 870-230-5098, a Residence Assistant or 911 immediately. If you are concerned about someone on campus,email [email protected]