One of the hardest challenges of being a student is learning how to balance academics, work, extracurricular and so on. It can be easy to get too overwhelmed during midterm/exam season and unfortunately, stress and other factors can take a toll on any student’s physical and mental well-being. The danger is that, when left unchecked, built-up mental unrest can lead to a mental health crisis and painful consequences. Everyone’s stressors are different, but factors that can spark an emotional emergency include:
- Mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc.)
- Recent loss (job, loved one)
- Sudden change in environment
- Relationship stress (romantic and non romantic)
- Financial difficulties
The following are coping strategies for if you find yourself in such situations:
1. The most important thing is learning how to recognize the signs that you might be heading in the direction of a crisis. They include behaviour changes (sleeping pattern, appetite), physical neglect/lack of proper hygiene, intense emotions/rapid mood swings or feeling numb, and worsening symptoms of mental illness including suicidal ideation. Self-awareness is important and knowing yourself and your triggers so you can remove yourself from distressing situations are even more so.
2. Reach out to your friends, family or whoever is part of your support system. Make sure that person is a good listener you can trust on an intimate emotional level. Call them to ask for advice if needed or request that they distract you from whatever issue is currently bothering you. The important thing is to connect with them so they can help you determine which steps to take next.
3. If you still find yourself facing difficulties, it may be time to seek out professional help. As scary as it sounds to ask for help and open up, have faith that you will receive help. Trust me, the kindness of strangers will never cease to amaze you.
Resources for UBC students include:
- Academic Advising
- Access and Diversity
- UBC Counselling
- Peer support group (Kaleidoscope, S.H.A.R.E.)
4. If none of those options are accessible to you or have made a significant difference, consider checking in with yourself. If you start to feel hopeless or if the intensity or your pain is too unbearable, remember that it is not only acceptable but also admirable and necessary to check yourself in at the hospital. It is your job to keep yourself safe. In these kinds of scenarios, it’s important to remember to do three things — be responsible, advocate for yourself and reach out for help. If getting yourself to the hospital seems like too much or is not possible, don’t forget that you can call 911 or a crisis line — you could save someone’s life or your very own.
Mental health crises are like being stuck in a violent emotional storm. If none of your current coping skills are helping, going to the hospital is simply another strategy and it can be compared to seeking shelter or refuge until the storm passes. It can become a matter of showing up for your life, standing up for yourself and fighting for your right to happiness.
Like a friend once told me, “If you can’t visualize tomorrow, go.”