Having a mental illness is never easy no matter what stage you’re at in life, but having one in college presents some additional challenges. In high school, your parents most likely made all the phone calls and took care of the paperwork. It was easier to make up missed work due to appointments and teachers were more lenient. College is different. You’re an adult now, and self-advocacy is more crucial than it has ever been.
How do you navigate the strange world of young adulthood when you’re trying to juggle classes, relationships, and a mental illness?
Well, I’ve learned a few strategies through experience (and also the experience of failing to do some these things, which has cost me).
1. If you’re insured, have your insurance card with you at all times.
Bring it to school and keep it in your wallet. Then keep your wallet secured in your backpack so you always know where it is. Trust me, if you’re going to seek treatment, you’ll need your insurance card. Nothing sucks more than getting all the way to an intake appointment and realizing you don’t have all the right information.
2. Talk with your parents about who pays for treatment.
Ideally, have this conversation before coming to college. It will spare you a lot of potential awkwardness when the bill comes in.
3. Be open with your professors.
You don’t need to tell them your life story, but it’s worth it to keep communication open. They might be more sympathetic to any potential absences or missed work if you let them know in advance what’s going on. Easier said than done, obviously.
4. Find treatment early.
If possible, get yourself set up with treatment during orientation week. I wish I had sought out help sooner, because,
1) It would have saved me a lot of unnecessary struggling during the majority of the year, and
2) the waitlists wouldn’t have been so horrendous.
Trust me, this is not something you want to put off.
5. Register with your school’s Office of Disability Services if you need accommodations.
Once again, do this early.
6. Keep in contact with people from home who know about your situation.
Whether it’s your family or a group of trusted friends from home, it’s good to have a support system who’s been through the worst with you.
7. Identify your own warning signs and triggers.
Do this so if you start getting worse, you can get intervention early rather than having things escalate to extremes.
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It is possible to have a successful college career and still have a mental illness. You might have to jump through a few more hoops than someone who doesn’t have your condition, but you still have the potential to succeed. Don’t doubt your abilities!