Next week is National Suicide Prevention Week, so now seems like a good time to mention mental health again. Between the stress of a new academic year, the cuts to funding, the increases in tuition, and the general “oh my god what am I doing here” panic, many students at all levels are feeling the crunch. Whether you are one of these students or someone who works with them, knowing how to respond is crucial.
Fortunately, many campuses not only offer the student body a wide range of mental health services from group therapy to individual sessions to workshops, but also advertise these services fairly well, especially at the start of a new term. I am going to go ahead and offer some extremely obvious advice that I still need reminding of from time to time. If you don’t want or don’t need advice, feel free to skip ahead to the comments and tell me there. Or skip ahead to a different story. Or maybe go e-shopping for those nice e-pants.
One minor detour before I get fully on my way. A few years ago, I picked up a magazine to read while waiting for the bus. I don’t remember anything important about the magazine, except for the general gist of one of the stories I read. It was about people who had survived disasters or accidents. One of the main things that someone could do to survive was to read the safety manual or pay attention to the safety instructions (note: this is not the article I read, but click the link and scroll down to the bottom of the first page to find similar information). Even if someone had used that mode of transportation or had done that activity many times before, paying attention to the safety instructions was crucial. It turns out that being aware of the safety protocol and knowing how specifically to respond to the bad situation made getting out of that situation all the more likely.
And that’s why I am writing about mental health today. If you are part of the faculty or staff of a university, you may very well have already received training in how to respond to students who need help. If you are a student, you may very well have been given a big packet of resources. All the same, take this time at the beginning of the academic year to review the mental health services at the university or college. Check what the protocols are, what the services are, and how to set up appointments or get access to those services. Familiarize yourself with any changes that may have happened since the last academic year, or since the last time you looked. Do everything you can to set yourself up to be a helpful and respectful resource to the people on your campus that may need it. At this particularly turbulent, exciting, and stressful time of year, awareness is key. Get aware.