Photo Courtesy of Roanoke College
Article Written by Vicki Daguerre
Mental health is a key focus on college campuses across the nation as research and advocacy have grown substantially in recent years. Roanoke College is no exception, as testimony from students on campus has shown. While not every student will seek counseling through the on-campus Counseling Center, students who have used outside resources have felt the steady encouragement and support of the greater Roanoke College community.
It can be difficult to reach out to friends and family about what a person is feeling or going through. It can make the person feel more isolated and, in so doing, perpetuate the feelings she struggles to understand and process.
Jordan, whose name has been changed for the purpose of anonymity, was willing to provide the Brackety-Ack with an honest view about what the process of recovery can look like and how best to support those who are going through it.
For Jordan, his biggest hurdle was reaching out to his friends and family. His recovery has been twofold, as many are, since sessions should remain ongoing. After his first recovery, he expected that everything would return to normal; that he would no longer need as many sessions and that his progress would only get better. Others who face similar challenges often rationalize the healing process in a similar way, but “it’s not like a cut where it heals and then it’s over with,” says Jordan. The feeling that the recovery was not as final as he had hoped caused Jordan to disconnect from his support system once more, in an effort to not worry them.
After an incident that made his lapse in recovery known to his friends and family, he was able to seek the support that he needed again. This time, the support system came to him. “What started to really turn things around was when people started to know what was going on, and they didn’t treat me any differently.”
The fear that a person may treat you differently based on the stigma associated with mental health was proven untrue in the case of Jordan as it is in so many others. Instead, quite the opposite happened. Friends began to share their own journeys and recoveries with mental health. Often the conversation just needs a facilitator, because “once they realize that other people go through this too, that’s when they’re comfortable talking about it.” That’s when a support system can be built.
A support system can make the difference for a student dealing with mental health challenges. According to Jordan, be aware that “as much as you think your situation is exactly like someone else’s your situation is never the exact same.” It is best to just let them talk to you. Allow them to hear your story or path and “it can make things clearer about different options that they have.”
Jordan noted that throughout the process, the administration and the Roanoke College Community gave wholehearted support. The school did not regard him any differently and handled the situation with compassion and empathy. The administration only acted in his best interests. When classes had to be dropped, the process was seamless, preventing a failing letter grade and protecting his transcript.
Throughout the process, Jordan realized that recovery is a process that needs continued support and management unlike other forms of healing. He now knows when to seek support and from whom. For him, seeking multiple forms of therapy helped in the process, and he would recommend giving forms other than standard counseling a chance.
Further, Jordan realizes that there are stigmas associated with being a man and seeking counseling or therapy. The idea that “boys shouldn’t cry or talk about their feelings” becomes a challenge in its own sense. “I don’t need help; I can figure this out on my own” is what some men think instead of seeking help. As Jordan realized when his recovery became difficult, this is not the case. He since learned that there is no shame in seeking help, “I don’t know the perspective of a girl, but coming from the perspective of a guy, I thought it was proving to myself that I could figure it out by myself and on my own.”
Research has shown that “men of all ages and ethnicities are less likely than women to seek help for all sorts of problems—including depression, substance abuse, and stressful life events.” Data gathered in one such study showed that “a full two-thirds of mental health outpatient visits were made by women.” Conclusions in research have found that the casual factor in this difference is “socialization and upbringing: men learn to seek less help.” As advocacy in the area of mental health continues, advocates for men’s mental health with continue to grow.
As Jordan said, “there’s no shame in it.” The Counseling Center has flexible hours, and there are centers in the area that could also be good fits for students.