Mental health is more than just taking care of yourself

The pandemic has thrown unfavorable – and unpredictable – situations at us each day. Many students and their families are facing financial strain while they embark on online classes, causing a sharp increase in depression and anxiety levels. 

You could say you’ll go for a walk or put on a face mask to wind down to deal with stress. But taking care of your mental health isn’t necessarily the same thing as self-care. If you think you need more than a walk or warm bath to deal with your overall wellbeing, you probably do.

If you caught a cold, you would probably take care of it by taking NyQuil or a nap. If you broke your arm, you would probably have to get a cast and rest your arm until it’s healed. Feelings of depression and anxiety are no different than catching a cold or breaking your arm. The only difference is how we think we need to treat them. Mental health is just as serious as your physical health and needs to be taken care of accordingly. Students must take care of their mental health and use GW-provided and online resources to cope with the semester ahead. 

As someone who has struggled with a serious mental illness my whole life, it frustrates me when people seem to think they can solve their issues by putting on a face mask or “taking it easy.” I’ve seen countless Instagram posts telling people to take care of themselves by taking a walk, long bath or meditating. While looking after yourself is crucial to taking care of your mental health, there is no shame in admitting that what you’re going through right now cannot be dealt with alone. Whether that means getting professional help or relying on a trusted friend or family member, there is no shame in reaching out when they are struggling. 

Students could start finding help by reaching out to a close family member or friend. But for your mental health needs to be consistently addressed and heard, it’s best to find therapy or psychiatric help. There are even different types of therapy and therapists who can specifically help you work through what you need. You might not find someone you like right away, but stick with the process and they can help you find coping mechanisms to deal with feelings like depression and anxiety. 

GW also provides resources to help students mentally struggling. The University offers counseling via telemedicine during the pandemic, and workers in the Colonial Health Center can refer you to outside therapists who can cater to your specific needs. You can download a GW-sponsored app that helps you track your mental health and read information about dealing with feelings of depression on the CHC website. 

At the end of the day, the way you deal with your mental health is up to you. But mental health is just as important as physical health and must be treated as such. Our world is in turmoil, many of us are back in our childhood homes instead of at school and the nation is being gripped by a pandemic and national protests. Dealing with yourself is in your control during this chaos – if you are struggling and are unsure of where to go, there is always help available. 

Hannah Thacker, a junior majoring in political communication, is the opinions editor.

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