Day-by-day. Hour-by-hour. Minute-by-minute. Mental illness is an ongoing struggle for college students.
According to The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, 73% of students experience some sort of mental health crisis during college. Out of these students, only 25% seek out help.
University at Buffalo student Elizabeth Bockus struggles with anxiety and depression.
“Living everyday with my mental illness feels like a disadvantage over everyone else. It feels like there’s some sort of block that I can’t get past that’s stopping me from being my best and doing what I truly want in life,” Bockus said.
Mental illness can inhibit college students from reaching their full potential.
“The stress of college plays a huge part in the state of my mental health,” Bockus said. “Struggling to manage your own well-being as well as the stress of five or six classes, along with work or whatever life throws at you, seems impossible sometimes. It feels like you have to pick good grades or your own well-being because there’s not always time for both,” Bockus said.
Many colleges and universities have resources for their students who are struggling with mental health. Unfortunately, many students don’t use these resources because of the negative stigma surrounding mental illness.
“There’s absolutely a stigma around mental health,” Bockus said. “From what I’ve been through personally, I have been treated differently and looked at differently whether it’s by professors, my colleagues, or my parents. A lot of people with more severe mental illnesses are often called crazy, incompetent, or weak for seeking help.”
There are many organizations dedicated to breaking the stigma around mental health. Compeer Rochester is one of them.
Compeer Rochester is hosting Walk a Milestone on Nov. 27. It is the celebration of “mini-milestones” that those struggling with mental illness get through everyday. Walk a Milestone promotes togetherness ‘because no one should have to struggle alone’.
Phil Callipare is a peer specialist at Compeer Rochester. He sees Walk a Milestone as a way to support local businesses and be around people.
“We figured one, it promotes exercise and two, it promotes unity within the community.” Callipare said.
Compeer Rochester’s main goal is to defeat the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Its mission is to integrate the community and spread awareness about mental health. One of the resources they offer is the peer mentor program.
Peer specialists are people who use their “lived experience” to help others who are struggling with the same issues. They are able to relate to the person that they are helping and give them insights on what worked for them.
“We need people who go by their lived experience, What skills worked for them? How long did it take? What were the ups and downs of the whole journey? Those key aspects are important,” Callipare said.
Peer mentoring creates another outlet for people who are struggling. Many people find it helpful to have someone in recovery that they can relate to instead of solely relying on facts and statistics.
“We try to get out of that textbook way of thinking,” Callipare said. “So you live with anxiety, let’s talk about your symptoms, your personal symptoms. Let’s go out into the community and work on these goals and objectives. What works for me may not work for you but I can at least introduce that skill to you,” Callipare said.
People struggling with mental illness often find it difficult to reach out and ask for help.
“Get vulnerable and ask for help. There’s nothing wrong with that.” Callipare said. “I mean, if you had a stomachache that lasted a month you wouldn’t just sit with it, you would go to the doctor. It’s the same thing. There’s no shame in it.”
Compeer Rochester promotes mental wellness through friendship. It is easier to reach out and ask for help when you know that you are not alone. On their website, they state ‘the most important thing is that we experience forward motion, together.’ They also have many resources on their website for people to reach out to if they need help.
Walk a Milestone is a way for the Rochester community to walk together, stand together, and grow together. When struggling with mental illness it is important to take it day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute.