Managing Your Mental Health While at IU

As the first full month of fall semester classes is coming to an end, maybe your anxiety or depression is starting to set in. Whether you are a freshman on campus, or a student working on your master’s degree, everyone can experience bouts or episodes of poor mental health, diagnosed or not, at any point in life. Finding resources available to students and knowing what to do to help yourself while in college is incredibly important!

Considering that September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, I would like to share with you all some resources, options, and tips that I found particularly useful while dealing with major depression and panic attacks as a student at IU. While I am not a licensed therapist, nor even majoring in psychology, I did struggle through my first two years of college because of my mental illness. I know how bad it can get, but I also know what worked for me might work for others. Everyone’s mental health is different and everyone’s path of healing will also be different. What matters most is that you find what’s right for you!

As a student at IU dealing with mental illness, here are some resources and places to go if you need them:

1. CAPS: CAPS stands for Counseling and Psychological Services and is located in the Health Center on the corner of 10th street and Jordan. Did you know if you paid the student health fee, your first two counseling sessions are free? If you need to stop in for an emergency counseling visit, or maybe just talk about reasons you’ve been feeling depressed lately, CAPS is always available to you at the Health Center. Plus, they’re able to help with a plethora of conditions and issues you may be dealing with. For me, talk therapy is a wonder. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend stopping in when you feel you need it. CAPS has some great therapists, whether you need them once, want to start a regimented therapy schedule, or need to be recommended to a psychiatrist.

Here’s a link to the CAPS website.

2. IU Health Behavioral Health: While this is a resource I personally did not take advantage of, it was offered to me. IU Behavioral Health is a lot like CAPS, as it offers psychotherapy and psychiatrists, but provides a bit more services for longer-term patients such as partial hospitalization programs and other specialized programs. Like CAPS, they’re able to help with many different conditions and states of being. All you need to do is visit the website, look up the issue you’d like help with and start reading about the ways in which you can get help!

Here’s a link to the Behavioral Health website.

3. Other Psychologists/Psychiatrists in Bloomington: If CAPS or IU Behavioral Health does not work for you, you can always search for some local, non-IU-affiliated psychologists and psychiatrists working in Bloomington. Maybe their location or schedule works better for you, or maybe you feel a better connection with them than you do through IU- being comfortable is super important for some people when discussing mental health. To find some of these doctors, all you have to do is a google search and make a couple phone calls- if this is too much for you, you can ask a friend to help you out, or a parent or guardian.

4. Your RA: For those who are living in a dorm, there’s a good chance you’re pretty new on campus and also may not be accustomed to how quickly your life has changed- that’s normal! While your RA is there for many reasons, one of these reasons is to help guide you and be there for you. If you feel comfortable enough, open up to your RA, or ask for help. He or she may be able to direct you where to go, be a shoulder to cry on, or check in on you every now and then and make sure you’re doing okay. It’s a resource right at the end of your hallway.

5. Yoga, Meditation, and Mindfulness: If you’ve never tried yoga, the benefits can be endless- it’s physical, mental, and spiritual. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness often go hand-in-hand with each other and rightfully so. If you’ve never heard of mindfulness, it’s basically the practice of being present in the moment- it’s a lot like meditation. For me, yoga and meditation helped a lot. I was able to relax, not stress, and focus on my health. Plus, meditation and mindfulness practices can go with you anywhere and anytime. If this option seems viable for you, yoga is offered a lot of places in Bloomington. Drop in for a yoga class through the SRSC, or you could take a credited, semester-long yoga class through IU. If these options don’t work for you, you can always go to a yoga studio and sign up for classes- there’s plenty in Bloomington. Make it work for you in natural and healthy way!

Here’s a good mindfulness website to get your search started.

6. Go to your social circle and people you trust: Sometimes all we need is a good friend with an open ear, or maybe a parent to whom you can tell all your feelings to. If you have someone who you know cares about you and wants to help, go to them! Confiding in someone you trust or love can relieve so much ill-feeling. They can offer their own advice and tips that you may have not thought of on your own. It is important to keep in mind that your friend or parent, or whomever it may be, may not be familiar with mental illness and might not know how to help you best. They may sometimes say the wrong thing but with the best of intentions- it may just come across a little weird. Remember that they are just trying to help so be open with them about how you’re feeling.

If you’ve tried all of the above options, or maybe are currently soliciting one of the mentioned resources but need a little bit more, try working with some of these tips and things to do:

Talk to your professors about the work load/extended deadlines: This will depend on your classes, but if it’s an option. Go to your professor’s office hours or maybe have a quick chat after class. Mention what is necessary and it’s possible your professor will allow some leniency in certain aspects of the class- whether it be an extra day for an assignment or an understanding for a lack of participation in class. No promises on this one, but it’s worth a try, especially for those whose grades are suffering from mental illness.

Work on your time management: A big cause of stress and anxiety, and other states of poor mental health can come from poor time management- or maybe because of your mental illness, you struggle with time management. Either way, it’s possible to alleviate both of these scenarios. If you don’t have a day planner, try getting one and seeing if that helps you. For me, I’m obsessed with to-do lists. I love seeing everything in a visual manner and crossing an item off my to-do list once it’s completed. Maybe try getting everything done and going to bed at a set time every night if possible. The options are endless here, but the big idea is getting everything in order, which can be very hard to do while dealing with a mental illness- but keep in mind even the smallest thing can help!

Lessen some activities: If too much is on your plate, that may be worsening how you’re feeling. Maybe you’re taking one too many classes, or working too many hours, or you joined too many extracurriculars. It’s okay to take it slow and not to over-burden yourself. Try to lighten your load if possible in order to start feeling better. ‘Me’ time is important, so make sure you have some and use it wisely.

Take time off from school: After my first two years at IU I decided to take a year off. During this time, I was working full time, living in Bloomington, and focusing on myself and my mental health. I am now back in school and doing better than ever. If this option is possible for you and seems like something you need, then I recommend it! Sometimes we come to college or points in our lives that we’re not ready for, and this can exacerbate mental illness. Lots of people take time off for different reasons, so if you need it, do it! Talk to your parent or guardian about your decision and schedule a meeting with your advisor. IU makes it possible for students to take time off and come back when they’re ready.

I hope that if you’re dealing with mental illness you found at least something in these lists useful. The most important thing out of anything is reaching out and asking for help. It’s hard to get anywhere while suffering in silence so I encourage you, no matter how hard it is, to go to your parent, brother, best friend, counselor, grandma, RA, whoever it is, and say you need help. Your path to getting better lies within reaching out and knowing that it really does get better!

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