You walk onto a college campus and the first thing you see is your fellow students looking down at their phones, typing emails, writing papers, or reading from a computer. I suppose in the “digital age” it’s acceptable, and even somewhat required, to do so. Assignments are posted online, Google Calendar is our own personal secretary, and social media is our entertainment. We’ve reached a stage where it’s all practically routine.
Mental health is an important indicator of overall happiness level; however, most of us often neglect it by stowing it away in the back of our minds. If I were to ask my peers on campus if they find the sunset beautiful, most of them would probably say yes. But, if I then ask about the last time they appreciated it as it happened, I don’t think many of us would remember. Who has time, right? What’s most striking is that there is always time for a panic attack, which can almost last as long as the gorgeous sunset itself. And there always seems to be time to debate one’s social image on campus for thirty minutes. That is what is scary.
Stress comes from so many different sources, it’s almost impossible to keep count. Causes for stress can be seemingly simple things such as homesickness, what to do with free time, or even Commons. At times, all can appear as barriers to being fully happy. However, talking to someone about daily stressors doesn’t usually seem like a feasible option. The situation might not seem large or important enough to bring up in discussion.
That innate hesitation to talk about our feelings is a result of the stigma surrounding mental health on campus. That bottom line is: if it causes stress, it is a problem. Furthermore, there’s no reason to think your problem is too small to have an effect on you. In reality, I would say that stress from unnamed sources is probably the most recurrent cause of anxiety on the Bates campus.
A college campus like ours is small, requiring constant, daily social interaction from its inhabitants. Some may call it a “fishbowl” existence, and to a large extent, they’re right. We tend to make it look easy to maintain public personas every time we step out of our living spaces, but it’s ludicrous to think that we actually aren’t revealing our true feelings. Keeping all our emotions inside is actually one of the hardest things to do, introverts and extroverts alike. Concealing one’s private self for the majority of one’s time can take a toll on anyone. Moreover, seeing those who make it look easy to keep up appearances can cause further stress. Because who would one talk to if everyone seems to be doing just fine?
Here’s my takeaway: not everyone is doing just fine. That is a major problem that needs to be dealt with. There’s no point in nursing the issue anymore. It’s time we talk about it because most of us know it exists.
Acclimating to new environments, interacting with different personality types, and living a life drastically dissimilar from anything one has experienced in the past are undoubtedly big changes. International students come from completely different cultures, students of color may not be used to being in the minority in their communities, and domestic students can come from a host of different environments. It is natural that self-doubt and dilemmas that had never surfaced before would be able to do so when students assimilate into the campus lifestyle. These stressors are some of the biggest causes of poor mental health on campus. Therefore, they need to be addressed and, hopefully, eventually eliminated. We cannot afford to stigmatize them.