Welcome to our new 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.
By Zoe Howland
As I was getting ready to leave for college, the most common piece of advice I got from college-educated family members and friends was to talk to my professors. I shrugged it off, assuming that my relationships with professors would come more naturally. Little did I know that in less than two years, I would be giving incoming students the same advice that I was slow to take.
I struggled with my mental health in high school, but I was in a pretty good place by the time I started college. So while I talked with my professors occasionally, it was usually about the classes I was in and almost never about my personal life. During my sophomore year, I started struggling with my mental health again and I noticed that it began impacting my success in my classes. I was able to establish a relationship with an off-campus therapist through by connecting with my campus’ Active Minds chapter, but I still felt the need to be open with my professors about the fact that I was struggling. My mental health was not going to resolve itself all at once.
I started making appointments with my professors during their office hours. In each one, I admitted that I was struggling with my mental health. The amount of detail that I shared varied depending on the relationship I had with each professor, and some professors more understanding than others, but they all, at the very least, offered to connect me with the counseling center on campus and the office responsible for accommodations.
Talking to professors, especially about personal stuff, can be really intimidating, but it’s helpful to remember that professors are people too. They’re as likely as anyone else to empathize with whatever it is you’re going through.
These are just tips based on my experience as a student — every school is different! However, most of the professors that I know would much prefer to know when a student is struggling, rather than make assumptions about how a student is performing in their class. I have found that being open with my professors about my mental health has improved my success in class, as well as my overall college experience. This type of conversation can be intimidating and scary to initiate, but hopefully these tips will help!
Originally published on the Active Minds Blog.
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