May is Mental Health Month

Mental health is an important issue for everyone. Research suggests that 1 in 4 college students will experience a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their academic career, and virtually everyone experiences transient symptoms such as stress, anxiety, or depressed mood from time to time. If you’re reading this, chances are that you or someone close to you is currently struggling with their mental or emotional well-being in some way.

Despite the pervasiveness of the issue, we often treat mental health as a taboo topic. As a counselor at CAPS, I find that students often worry that talking about or taking care of their mental health means they are “crazy,” “weak,” or “being dramatic.” However, avoiding the topic only serves to exacerbate the problem.

Mental Health Month has been celebrated every May nationwide for the past 65 years as a way to keep the public informed.  This event hopes to help people recognize that mental health is an important part of our overall well-being, and empower people to take care of their mental health without stigma or shame. This year, the theme is “Mind Your Health”, focusing on strategies every person can use to improve and maintain their mental health.

Humpty-Dumpty-Back-Together-Again-by-Rick-VanZant

2014 Poster Contest Winner by Rick Van Zant

Looking for a step that you can take today? Make a list of 5 healthy things you do to take care of yourself. For example, my list would include things like spending time with friends, eating healthy, or going to a yoga class. Over the past week, how much time have you spent on each of these? Think of specific examples. If you are like many busy students, you may find you’ve spent very little time on your self-care. The problem with this is that when we neglect self-care, we just can’t function at our best. When we’re not sleeping, our memory and learning suffers and our all-nighters end up undermining our test performance. When we’re neglecting our relationships, we miss out on the social support we need and end up feeling burned out and isolated.

Take a minute now to make a plan for how to include 1-2 good self-care activities into your week. If you’re struggling for ideas, check out The Compassion Project’s blog for some inspiration.

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