The last time I wrote a piece for our Cypress newsletter, I had received my second round of rejection letters for graduate school. I was feeling discouraged, and I appreciated everyone's messages of support! I am happy to announce that since then, I was accepted to an MSW program at Columbia University in New York, where I am starting this month. I am so incredibly proud of myself and excited to be able to continue my education. As the start of school approaches, I am thinking about all the different ways that the Back-to-School season can impact students’ mental health, no matter where they are in their educational journey.
When I was in high school, I was an overachieving student with significant mental health challenges. I was in 9th grade when I received my diagnoses of depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Receiving this news was difficult. I felt isolated and alone because mental health challenges weren’t openly discussed around me. It was hard to talk about it with people because I feared being judged or being seen differently. Over the years, it has gotten better. I have learned lots of skills and tools to help me navigate my diagnoses. I have connected with others who have similar experiences and built a strong network of support around me. However, I recognize that academic success and pressure have always been a huge activator for me. I am aware that I will be a first-generation Latina in graduate school, thousands of miles away from my family and friends. So, as I begin graduate school this Fall, I know how critically important it will be to pay attention to my mental health and holistic wellbeing.
If you are a student returning to school this season, I encourage you to do the same. Take some time to reflect on your needs: emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. Make yourself a self-care plan to fall back on during terms and finals. Pre-plan fun and fulfilling activities for your free time. Commit to trying a new hobby. Schedule in time to study. Make it a habit to rest. Eat well and move your body. And surround yourself with a solid circle of supporters who really care about you.
If you are someone supporting a student returning to school this season, listen nonjudgmentally instead of making assumptions. Try not to get caught up in your own expectations of the student you want to support. Give of your space and time and energy. And let that student know how much you care, no matter their academic outcomes. Let’s all have an amazing Back-to-School season together. We got this!