Last year I was at a dinner and the discussion turned to how mental illness can negatively impact someone’s academic performance and what the university can do about it. Not knowing about my struggles with mental illness, someone close to me said that “not everyone is cut out for university”. Those words really hurt me because I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss someone’s ability to excel academically solely on the fact that they’re currently struggling with mental illness. I felt that having the attitude that someone doesn’t belong in university because of mental illness was a part of the bigger problem.
Instead of emphasizing asking how we can help, society plays into the stigma that people with mental illness are lesser. Instead of encouraging people to reach out for the help that they desperately need, we make them feel ashamed. Instead of providing support to students with mental illness, the university requires them to withdraw. This is why we need to speak up, be vulnerable, and come together to change the narrative about mental health in academia.
Sleepless nights spent studying for exams, having a diet that consist of caffeine and Adderall, and reaching your breaking point because you’re so overwhelmed is not what the university experience should be about. I would love to see the university invest more money into the health and counselling services so that students don’t have to wait two weeks or more to see a counsellor. While psychiatrists are covered under MSP, mental health services are underfunded which makes it difficult to find affordable professional help.
Last summer my depression was at a low-point. I would stay in bed from Saturday afternoon until Tuesday morning because I felt numb, lost, directionless and incapable. I am fortunate enough that I was able to find the professional help I need. I have good days and I have bad days, but lately the good days largely outweigh the bad. I’m taking things one day at a time and I’m making self-care a priority. I’m learning how to stop negative self-talk, and I’m rediscovering my limits.
While it may sound like I have everything together, I don’t. I have made so much progress in my mental health these past few months but I’m still trying to recover academically from my depression. However I’m not going to let that stop me from achieving my goals or following my passions. Instead, I am using my frustration with the system as my motivation to succeed this semester. I will not be told that I don’t belong in university because of my mental illness.
Don’t let anyone limit you. You are worthy. You are good enough. You are loved. You are more than your mental illness.