An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Getting Mental Health Help in College

jeremy-bishop-131058.jpgWhen stressed by school, you might not have time to exercise or wait a little too long to go to the doctor about your cough. Similarly, sometimes it’s easy to ignore mental health concerns when you’re busy with school. Mental health issues are becoming a larger and larger issue on college campuses and students often don’t know how to begin addressing their concerns with their mental health. Some colleges are more supportive than others, but regardless, there are attainable ways for you to get any help you need. You’re not alone.

Self-harm is estimated to affect up to a third of college students. One in 12 college students admit to having had suicidal thoughts. My college friends and I had many encounters with mental health in school. Dealing with these situations was stressful and at times alienating. I also learned from these experiences that help is out there. Here are a couple of places you can start if you’re struggling with your mental health.

  1. SELF-EVALUATE. Think about the feelings and difficulties you are experiencing. Are you overwhelmed? Frequently and uncontrollably depressed? Having trouble sleeping? Write these feelings and any potential triggers down. This resource will make it much easier to talk with providers about your experience.  ULifeline provides a free, online quiz that allows you to get a general self evaluation of your mental health. This doesn’t replace a visit to a professional in any way, but it’s a good place to start. Psychology Today also has a mental health evaluation if you’d prefer not to enter any information about yourself.

  2. EXPLORE YOUR SCHOOL’S RESOURCES. You can start by searching online if you’re nervous about asking someone. Your R.A. or school wellness center will likely be able to help you learn more… in fact, that’s what they’re there for. ULifeline also allows you to search for services by school, although it’s not comprehensive. Starting with the services your school offers is the most convenient route since they are set up for students. If you don’t feel like these services are working for you, they can also refer you. Some schools offer counseling at a reduced price from grad students in their counselling programs. This is an affordable option to look into if it’s available in your area.

  3. LOOK FOR OUTSIDE HELP. If your school doesn’t offer sufficient services or you want to avoid them for any reason, you can look for help outside the school. Psychology Today has a great listing of therapists and psychologists depending on your needs. SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), provides 24/7 info to help you connect with treatment options. Checking what is covered by your insurance can also help. You can also try online/ text therapy if you’re in a pinch, such as Talkspace and Better Help. If you are in immediate need of help and feel like you want to end your life, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or you can text the Crisis Text Line by sending CONNECT to 741741. These are good numbers to have written down somewhere in case you need them or are with someone who needs them. Both are available 24/7,  free and confidential.

  4. GIVE IT TIME. Finding treatment that works can be difficult with mental illnesses. The process can be scary and it can feel so hard, especially as you’re also trying to keep up with your life at college. Take the time to invest in your health and you may help prevent a major, debilitating crisis.  It’s important that you give the process time. It may take a couple of trys to find the right therapist/provider. It’s common to take more than one try to get the right fit. Don’t be discouraged, your comfort is important and this is worth the time. Also, talk to your psychologist/psychiatrists about any issues you experience with medicines and treatments. This will involve going out of your comfort zone but it’s all part of the process of finding something that works for your needs.Many antidepressants and other mental health treatments take 4-6 weeks to reach full effect and some can have some temporary side effects when first starting that you’ll eventually adjust to.

  5. STAY HOPEFUL. You are not alone in this process. Hope is real and help is out there. It may help to read stories of others going through similar challenges. You can find such stories on the To Write Love On Her Arms Blog and The Mighty. You can find many supportive groups online and there might even be some in your area. But if you aren’t ready for a public support group, virtual options are out there too. Knowing you aren’t alone and that others have gotten through their darkest times can be just the seed of hope you need to get through another day.



Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Getting Mental Health Help in College

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Living with Roommates

Whether you are moving in with a best friend, or you’ve just been randomly matched by a survey, living with someone who is not your family comes with a special kind of awkwardness. Luckily, I am the awkward expert.

Welcome to Awkward Girl’s Guides. Sometimes I feel unbearably awkward. I don’t hate people… I’m not even always bad with people. I do, however, have some pretty intense anxiety about new people and situations… like, for instance, getting new roommates. I’ve had three years of living with people experiences and I have a couple of tips that will hopefully help you navigate the awkwardness. Don’t stress. Living with people is a challenge, but you can do it, even if you are prone to awkwardness!

1. COMMUNICATE. This is my first step for a lot of awkward situations. The impulse to be really shy with the person you are living with is going to be pretty strong, especially if you don’t know them before coming to school. Maybe he or she will do some things that you find really annoying. Maybe you guys operate on different schedules. Maybe you’re both very compatible. You won’t know any of these things unless you talk with the person.

Here’s the thing, it only gets more awkward if you fail to communicate with your roommates. In the first few days, come up with some ground rules for the room and talk about how it’s best to communicate. If you’d rather leave notes or Facebook your roomie when you need to tell them something important, let them know. Sometimes there is no replacement for straight up face-to-face conversation. It’s going to be awkward, but it’s very necessary. Believe me, I’ve had many roomie fights that could have been avoided with a simple conversation months earlier.

2. ROOMIE TIME. This is going to sound cheesy, but plan some special bonding time with your roommate. Go to Walmart and pick out some fun accessories for your room or make your own together. Watch a movie together. Have a random dance party. In all likelihood, you’re going to be with this person all year. They are probably going to witness some of your best and worst moments, so make an effort to get to know them. Later, when you are both stressed, there is less likely to be a stupid blowout if you know each other a bit. You don’t have to be best friends with your roomie, but don’t ignore them.

My roommate freshman year, who I’m still very good friends with, walked in on me sobbing twice, once when I found out my grandma had cancer and the second time when a friend of mine died. College is tough emotionally as it is, and life happens. Knowing your roomie can make difficult situations much less awkward whether you end up having to comfort or be comforted by your roommate. Let’s be honest, your roommate can function as a built in friend and maybe they won’t. Before you decide that, find out more about them. You might be surprised.

It’s probably also wise to schedule some alone time as well. Find a place on campus to chill alone, whether it’s a porch, parlor, empty classroom or the library. This alone time gives you a chance to wind down and if you are feeling stress about something your roommate did or is doing, you can let it settle. It’ll keep you both calmer and more friendly if you don’t spend every minute of the day with them.

3. DON’T JUDGE. Your roommate might be a terrible person, but chances are she isn’t. You need to give her a chance and understand that her circumstances/life/belief systems are different than yours. It’s easy to walk in day one and think you know all about someone from their bedding and pictures, but you don’t know. Even later, when you know your roommates better, it’s still better to keep an open mind. You don’t have to like your roommates’ decisions, but unless they are directly affecting you, you might just have to accept them.

In the same respect, your roommate shouldn’t be judging you. If you feel judged, you might have to talk to her. We all do weird stuff. We have weird habits. Aside from that, mistakes happen, especially in college. Judgements and grudges based on them are just going to poison your living situation. Avoid this at all costs, because it’s hard to go back once the poison starts.

4. GIVE AND TAKE. As important as it is to communicate (especially when you are having trouble), sometimes you have to accept that the other person you’re living with is not going to agree with you 100 percent. You might be complete opposites. You aren’t going to successfully train your roommate to be a neat person if she is not, just like she  probably won’t be able to train you to like silence if you function better in a noisy room. Compromise is essential.

I’ve lived with a lot of different people. In my suite last year, we were almost at blows between the more and less organized suitemates. In the end, we were all able to change some of our habits, but not all of them. I still left my backpack and all of my books in the common room even though it drove one of our roommates crazy, but I tried to keep it more tidy. She learned to consult us before moving our stuff, though she still went on cleaning binges. It ended up fine, but we both had to realize that there were things that we just couldn’t change even if we wanted to.

5. UTILIZE RES. LIFE. Your resident assistants (RAs) are trained to help you work out issues with your roommate, and help you find another one if you need it. Ask them for help! They are great at helping mediate conversations and compromise. You might feel like it’s invasive to get them involved in your personal living situation, but they might have some ideas you don’t have for solving the core issue if you’re having roommate troubles.

Maybe, you can’t live with your roommate anymore. It happens. If you’ve given it all you’ve got, and it’s still endlessly stressful, your RA can help you figure out your next step. Many of my friends are RAs including one of my roommates from last year. She helped with our conflict resolution so much that a member of the room who was thinking about moving out, decided not to. It’s their job to help you out, so don’t feel like you are causing trouble or being an inconvenience, they want to help make your living situation as un-awkward as possible.


An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Living with Roommates