Put mental health first
Wei Lin | Wednesday, March 2, 2016
This week, two of my dearest and closest friends informed me of their decisions to take leaves of absence and push off graduation.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish they could stay and graduate with me, but that would be selfish. Instead, I want to thank them so much for letting me know personally and also for taking such courageous steps. I’m glad they were able to confide in me and talk about the issues they were facing. I’m so proud they sought help when they needed it and made the decisions they made.
To those who are dealing with demons of their own, you aren’t alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a third of all college students have reported prolonged periods of depression and about a quarter of all students reported having suicidal thoughts. While these numbers change from survey to survey, one thing is clear: Mental health is a huge issue that many of our fellow brothers and sisters face.
To those who know of friends who are dealing with mental health issues, please reach out to them. Ask them how their day is going. Let them know that you’re there for them. Make sure that you are someone they can trust. According to Active Minds, a national mental health advocacy group, 67 percent of college students tell a friend they are feeling suicidal before telling anyone else. You may very well be the person they turn to in their time of need.
When my friend first told me she wanted to leave, I asked her not to leave, to stay, to graduate together. Thinking back, that was so selfish of me. In her time of need, I thought about myself and forgot momentarily about what was most important — her health.
After weeks speaking with faculty, staff and friends, she made her final decision. I was sad to hear this. I had so much planned for us during senior week. I thought we were going to take our graduation pictures around campus, have our last dining hall meal together, get each other stoles of gratitude, finish everything on our Notre Dame bucket lists, and of course, walk together. I will miss her, but I know she chose what is best for her.
Shortly afterwards, my second friend told me her plans to take a term off. The news took me by surprise, and I needed a moment to process it. In the end, I think I had already learned my lesson. Rather than ask her to stay and reconsider her decision, I told her I was happy for her. And I truly am. I couldn’t be happier to see her confront her problem and be at peace.
To these two beautiful, brave women who I call my friends, I just want to say that while we might not walk together to receive our diplomas, I promise you that I will be here when you receive yours.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.