Advice from Students

Watch this video of the U-M Educational Theatre Company's performance at the 2010 Depression on College Campuses Conference!

Invisible: Student Voices, Mental Health, and the College Experience

In this section, University of Michigan students share some of the wisdom they have gained during their mental health recovery.

Find a support network.

One of the most important things you can do is find a support network. I am fortunate to have family that is extremely supportive. If you do not, it is crucial to find those people anywhere that you can.

Don’t be afraid to tell your friends and family. The hardest part of having depression was not knowing how my family and friends would handle the news. I know how mental illness is portrayed in the media and I was nervous that people would think I was crazy or treat me differently because they wouldn’t know how to act. What I found, however, was that instead of treating me differently, they treated me as though I’d never told them I was sick. My depression only factored into our relationships when they would ask how I was feeling, or I’d talk to them about it. To them, I wasn’t Emily with depression. Or Sick Emily. I was Emily. Your friends and family will love you no matter what. Give them the chance to show you this.

Train yourself to think differently.

Anxiety often comes on because we encounter situations of which the outcome is not certain, which is often. Learn to be less hard on yourself if you cannot predict all the outcomes. Learn to change your expectations in new situations. You cannot control everything.

Get some help.

Stay on top of your work so that it doesn't pile on top of you and cause you serious problems, but if you begin to feel overwhelmed and its not just work and you don't know whom to talk to, try to get some counseling or even therapy. The people that work in these fields have seen it all. Don't be embarrassed to ask for help to learn new strategies. It can only help.

I would first and foremost advise people who are struggling to go to CAPS and, if their depression or anxiety is interfering with their academic performance, the Dean of Student Affairs. Both have helped me greatly this term.

Don’t be afraid to seek help. The University of Michigan has countless resources available to its students. CAPS, UHS, Finding Voice, the Dean of Students Office, Services for Students with Disabilities, and Campus Mind Works are just a few resources at your disposal. There are literally hundreds of people on this campus who want to help you feel better; and not because it’s their job, but because they truly do care about you. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will feel better. Why wait?

Don’t be afraid.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to not be afraid. Mental illness can be a scary thing; but it doesn’t have to be.

Don’t be afraid to admit that something is wrong. It took me three years before I was willing to admit that I needed help, and it was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. Having a mental illness doesn’t make you weak or crazy. It is a disease like any other. Once you admit to yourself that something is wrong, you can begin to make it right again.

You won’t do well in school if you aren’t healthy and you won’t be spending time with your friends if you aren’t happy. Do whatever you have to in order to feel better. What matters most is YOU.

And remember, regardless of how you feel, you aren’t alone.

Mental illness in other cultures.

I am first generation Chinese-American, and as far as I know, there is very little information available in Asian cultures regarding mental illnesses.  In fact, the stigma can be quite large -- having a mental illness is sometimes (incorrectly) interpreted as "being crazy".  It was quite difficult communicating my depression/anxiety to my parents, initially because of their own stigma and later because they simply did not have many resources available in their native language.  I myself had internalized a great deal of the stigma, as well as a resistance to taking medication, as I was afraid it would "screw with my head". Something that helped me in both accepting medication and in explaining my depression to others was that it is not a sign of character weakness to have a clinical mental illness. It is not "just in your head". There are no "happy pills", so you will still be responsible for monitoring things like exercise, psychotherapy treatment, etc.” 

Top Ten List

  1. Exercise!
  2. Know your limits! You are not superman.
  3. Try your best to interact with people around you, even though you consider them very different.
  4. Sleep well. Develop habits.
  5. The world is not a fair place and does not have to make sense. Talking about something is not the same as accepting it.
  6. Problems are there for you to solve.
  7. If you are having problems, do not simply rely on others; you make the last call and it's your responsibility.
  8. But do get help, even if you think your problem is too small. None of us know what is normal.
  9. Try to expand your life, cross your boundaries, don't stay still.
  10. Motivate yourself.... Your best chance is to dream about future and yourself in it.



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