Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
Mental health advocacy has opened so many doors in my life. I’ve been able to start my own non-profit, pick up digital art as an interest, and meet important people to me because of it. I never imagined that a simple idea I had at 1:37 a.m. would lead me down the exact path I’ve been walking down the past seven years.
I came to the self-realization that I don’t need to limit myself to just doing mental health work and running my non-profit, Buddy Project, in 2018. I learned that I’m allowed to have different circles of my life that include other things I’m passionate about, especially because these different circles overlap.
Since writing my first piece, I’ve chosen the responsible, healthy decision to take a slight step back from Buddy Project. I was pouring too much of myself into my organization, which ultimately led to extreme burnout. Taking this step back has helped me find new passions and focus on all sorts of causes that young people care about. I naturally started to network with people in and out of the mental health space, which eventually connected me with Facebook and American Eagle. I started to build on my consulting skills by giving these companies insight on how to best reach Gen Z audiences.
Being able to meet new people and experience new things was the perfect thing for my mental health, but then the pandemic hit and things went south. Finishing my college degree back at home was mentally exhausting and socially draining. I started to feel burnout again and lost that fiery passion that I had. Only interacting with my family members for over three months was hindering my growth and only isolated me from the things that spark inspiration. Traveling and seeing the country contributes a lot to my creative energy, and being stuck in suburban Pennsylvania clearly didn’t help with that.
On top of that, not having real closure to my college career was extremely rough. I didn’t get to say true goodbyes to my friends, and didn’t even get to properly celebrate graduating. I’m very grateful that I found full-time employment in this unreliable, chaotic time, but even transitioning from college student to full-time worker was difficult since I couldn’t physically be with my co-workers.
My mental health is starting to improve, thanks to therapy and the different projects I’ve been working on, including Facebook Campus. I decided to get involved with Facebook Campus because I understand how hard it is for young people, especially college students, to build community and stay connected with likeminded people. I knew that with my background, I could bring genuine, valuable feedback that could shape the product into something Gen Z wants to use. As an older member of Gen Z, I feel like most people outside of the generation don’t truly get us. Our trends and interests move extremely fast, so if you don’t pick up quick enough, the trend will already be over.
There were a couple of us who frequently met with Facebook and we were involved from start to finish. We were able to see all of the different phases that the platform experienced, and shared thoughts on mood boards, content, and programming for things such as merchandise, promotional videos, and Facebook stickers.
I wish that I didn’t just graduate from college, because I feel like Campus could’ve been a useful tool for me to use, especially during the pandemic. Not only would it have helped me stay connected to my college community and friends while we were apart, but it also would’ve made group projects and club meetings a lot easier. I’m looking forward to seeing how students utilize Campus and hope it evolves with their growing needs. I want people to get the most of out of their college career, and make friends and stay connected during the pandemic and beyond.
Now that I’ve graduated, I’m focusing on getting myself into a better spot mentally, but I’m also trying to work on connecting people and raising awareness for mental health. I’m working on an app for Buddy Project that will make it easier for people to connect with others who are around the same age and share similar interests. It’s now more important than ever to get involved in causes you’re passionate about, whether it’s mental health, climate change, gun reform, gender equality, or immigration. These causes matter and deserve more awareness, education, and attention. I’m hoping that in my career, I can help more people find causes they’re passionate about and lead them in the right direction of which organizations they can work with to further their mission.
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