Dealing with Mental Health On UNC’s Campus

Hi!  I am one of the over 350 million individuals worldwide who lives with depression.  I have dealt with these feelings for a long time, but I found recently that at a large university that can feel so competitive at times, it is easy for these feelings to resurface.  I also deal with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and these two combined can be incredibly difficult to keep up with school and extracurriculars.  The feelings of constant worry and that I have to prove myself or else I could never be successful are overwhelming.  Additionally, depression makes me lethargic, withdrawn from my social sphere, and defeated.  This combination has taken a drastic toll on my physical, emotional, and academic well-being.

Earlier this semester my issues became severe to the point where I ended up in the UNC Emergency Room.  As someone who has always felt uneasy in hospital settings, this experience proved to be unsettling in and of itself.  At a point where I had hit rock bottom, I had no idea what was going on or when I would be able to leave.  I understand that a hospital stay is not meant to be luxurious – yet there is so much more we need to do for mental health care, not just at UNC Hospitals, but as a society.

I am incredibly grateful for the number of students on this campus who do so much work for mental health awareness.  Organizations such as Rethink, who conduct monthly trainings, Active Minds, and the Mental Health Ambassadors program are examples of student organizations who conduct important advocacy work and who try to battle the stigmas surrounding mental health.  It is necessary to realize that some students may come from a background where a lot of stigma came from their families, or they do not have the financial resources to seek care.  From what I have observed, these groups are trying to help everyone in need.

It can also be difficult to keep up with the rest of one’s responsibilities while one deals with a mental illness.  After I was released from the hospital, I realized that taking 17 credit hours, working part time, and the rest of my extracurriculars was too much for me to handle.  My grades were suffering, and I had a hard time keeping up with the rest of my obligations.  I decided to apply for a medical appeal and withdraw from one of my courses after the regular drop deadline for the semester.  During this process, I had to write a statement explaining to the academic committee how I could prevent my situation from happening in the future.  When I spoke to a psychiatrist at CAPS, she said that a good number of psychological appeals get denied because the applicant is unable to elaborate on this.  This was frustrating to me because there are many days where I am not in control of my mental illness.  Even after medications and counseling appointments, I cannot say for certain whether or not I will be able to avoid another severe crisis.  While I wait for the final decision on my application, I will continue to spend the upcoming weeks having to attend my class and do all the assignments for a course I am no longer in due to my mental health.  From the conversations I have had, it feels like UNC itself could care less about students who are seriously struggling.

I have also heard the stories of other students who have been upset and discouraged after seeking help through the school system.  The issues I hear about include having students being turned away for help completely, or they are referred to off-campus providers when they do not have transportation or the financial ability.  While I am very fortunate in that I can access off-campus treatment and get the help I need, not everyone has this privilege.  As a result, people are not able to get the regular help they need on-campus. Even after an initial walk-in at CAPS, it can be a while until somebody is able to schedule a follow-up appointment.  While there is only so much funding available and so many people that are able to work at a given time, but a lack of access can be incredibly detrimental to those who need help.  When somebody hears these negative experiences from somebody else who tried to get help, it can feel like there is nothing else they can do.  The system needs to be accessible and supportive for those who are suffering.

If there’s anything I’ve learned this semester, it’s that a lot of times you get worse before you get better.  I’m still on a long battle uphill, and sometimes I feel frustrated because it feels like I’ve exhausted my resources.  Asking for help is never easy, and it’s hard when you are not believed and turned away.  Despite all of this, I would highly encourage anybody who is reading this and who may be struggling to do so.  I would never want anybody else to close themselves off for so long and to give up on treatment the way I did in the past.

For those who are in immediate distress, there is a 24-hour CAPS hotline at 919-966-2281 in addition to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Article Written By: Veronica Correa

Would You Want to Know If There’s a Nazi in the Room?

Last Thursday, Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), visited UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus to discuss issues surrounding freedom of speech on college campuses. In his talk, he discussed how various college campuses are increasingly having speech codes for what is allowed to be said on campuses. In his talk, he gave examples of colleges/universities that are exhibiting relatively extreme speech codes- surprisingly, Lukianoff noted that UNC is one of the more freer universities who don’t have as many speech codes as other universities. FIRE puts universities in “speech code” rankings, that look like this:

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What Lukianoff wanted to emphasize throughout his talk was the increasing obsession with monitoring what is being said (or not said) on college campuses.  In the University of New Hampshire, for example, the words “elders/senior citizens”, “freshman”, “mailman”, “mothering/fathering”, “Arab”, and “American” are just some of the words that are prohibited from being said since they are triggering or bothersome to certain students. In UCLA, microaggressions there include “Where are you from or where were you born”, “America is a melting pot”,  and“I believe the most qualified person should get a job.” This culture of watching what one says, according to Lukianoff, is damaging to college campuses. Rather than encouraging dialogue, it actually makes communication less likely and makes people retreat from conversation. Likewise, it makes people feel like they are walking on eggshells when they are speaking to anyone with a different opinion than their own, and therefore makes them only grow closer to people who have similar opinions rather than those with differing opinions. Banning offensive language or discouraging free speech on campus also doesn’t stop people from being, let’s say, racist or homophobic. Rather, it just keeps these thoughts in their heads and makes them conglomerate with people who think like them. Quoting Lukianoff, “If there was a Nazi in the room, I’d like to know.”

Lukianoff’s talk is one that is needed on campus. Freedom of speech on campus is what promotes the variety of events, programs, and resources available to students on a daily basis. This freedom of speech has allowed students to feel safe, welcomed, and considered when they come to UNC. When freedom of speech starts becoming “Only say what everyone else agrees with”, that is when thinking is hindered and this university begins to fail. Often times, the liberal bubble that UNC students are put in keep them thinking in ways that don’t encourage diverse or critical thinking, but actually just keep feeding them the same information that they already agree with. For a student to have a truly liberal arts education, they need to be exposed to all forms of comments, criticisms, arguments, theories, and ideas. However, there are respectful and thoughtful ways to have these types of discussions. This isn’t done by fear-mongering, insulting other opinions/people, or by presenting unfactual information. Freedom of speech, I’d like to believe, doesn’t mean slander or marginalizing another group of people since those conflict with morality. Lukianoff’s talk showed that there are ways to express different ideas and opinions in ways that are constructive rather than destructive to the campus.

https://www.thefire.org/about-us/staff/

Socioeconomic Status and its Impact on Education

On Tuesday, HYPE – which stands for Helping Youth by Providing Enrichment – had a general body meeting during which Kari Kozlowski, a sociology doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina, came to speak about socioeconomic status and how it impacts students throughout their educational careers. The meeting was very interactive in nature; rather than give a lecture, Kozlowski elected to split everyone at the meeting into groups and work on a simulation. Continue reading “Socioeconomic Status and its Impact on Education”