College is a time for exploration – figuring out what we believe, learning what we want to do with our lives, and meeting a lot of new people. It can be a time of great stress too though, and when we have a mental illness this can make our adjustment to college life hard. Sometimes, just adjusting to college in general can bring depression to the forefront. Here are stories from students at three universities, discussing their struggles with mental illness – everything from depression and anxiety to OCD and anorexia.
Leeds University Students Discuss Their Mental Health
University College Dublin Students Discuss Their Mental Health
Trinity College Dublin Students Discuss Their Mental Health
Friendships with someone who has a mental health disorder can be quite tough at times. In fact, my group of friends is quite small. Most of them actually are other people that have a mental illness, because they understand what it is like. But I have friends that do not, and they are great!
I know that sometimes, being a friend or in a relationship with someone with a mental illness can be hard sometimes though. You don’t know what to say when certain topics come up, you don’t know how to react to certain situations, or maybe you don’t know what they are looking for or what help they want.
Being someone with a mental illness, there are a few things that friends do that really help me and I think most people with mental illness would say they look for in a good friend:
1) They listen – My true friends simply listen. They don’t judge me and they just listen. They don’t try to think ahead to what they are going to say next or how to respond while I am talking. They carefully pay attention to what I am saying, then they take the time to form a response if one is even needed. Many times I don’t need a response, I do not need advice, I just need someone to listen.
2) They support me – They validate my feelings and show me that I am not alone. They cannot always be present in person 100% of the time, but they let me know that I can text them or email them, Facebook them or leave a voicemail, and when they get it they will get back to me as soon as they can. They let me know that they care and that they are going to be there for me. They are empathetic.
3) They ask how they can help me – Sometimes, they don’t know what to do. Sometimes I don’t even know what I want them to do. I just ramble on and on. So they ask me what I am wanting. What do I need? This question gets to the bottom of things. Do they need to drive me to a therapy appointment? Do they need help studying for a test because of stress? What type of support is needed. It may seem direct, but there are nice ways of saying it, “What can I do to help you?”, “I want to do my best to support you right now, how can I do that?”, “What are some of the things you need right now?”
4) They are educated about mental illness – They know what is going on with me. They do not assume I am faking it, that it is all drama, or that I am “crazy.” They do not stigmatize mental illness. They take the time to learn about what is going on with me by either listening to me tell them about it or by doing their own research (or both!). This helps so much in the friendship.
5) They support me healthy coping skills – My good friends do not tell me I just need to have a drink or smoke pot or have sex to feel better. My good friends tell me I need to do something nice for myself, get a massage, read a good book, exercise, talk to them or my therapist, etc. My good friends understand that going out and partying late at night and drinking alcohol will interfere with my psych meds and mess up my sleep schedule thus possibly throwing my mental illness into disarray. My good friends encourage me to go out with them for alternative activities like a movie or a comedy show.
6) They take care of themselves – I don’t want my friend to feel like I am a burden on them. I want them to have their own lives and I don’t want to be clinging onto them. Knowing that they take care of themselves first and put up boundaries protects them and me. If they get overwhelmed by me, then it puts their mental health in jeopardy and most likely I will also be losing a friend. It is so important when you are friends with someone with a mental illness – or anyone for that matter – you take care of yourself first. Because if you cant take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else?
“You are going to make me pull my hair out!”
Well, let’s be honest, you may get angry or frustrated, but you aren’t going to pull your hair out because of someone.
For some people though, they really do have an urge to pull their hair out. They have a disorder called trichotillomania – or trich – for short. The most common places they pull hair from are the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes. This will leave noticeable bald patches.
Depending on who you talk to, there is a debate on how trich is classified. Some say it is an impulse control disorder, some say it is related to OCD, others say it is a body focused repetitive behavior (BFRB).
It can be found in all age groups, including infants! However, most commonly it appears in the tween – teen years.
According to the DSM V the symptoms of trichotillomania are:
- Recurrent pulling out of one’s hair, resulting in hair loss.
- Repeated attempts to decrease or stop hair pulling.
- The hair pulling causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- The hair pulling or hair loss is not attributable to another medical condition (e.g., a dermatological condition).
- The hair pulling is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder (e.g., attempts to improve a perceived defect or flaw in appearance in body dysmorphic disorder).
There really is no known cause of trich. It is thought to have a neurologically predisposition. It is also thought to occur as a coping mechanism during stressful events. I personally tend to pull out my eyebrow hairs during times of stress when I get anxious. I do not do it all the time though and have learned to cope with it better when I have something to do with my hands such as play with a stress ball. I tend not to notice I am doing it though unless someone points it out. Many people with trich cannot control their urges though.
Some treatment options have been used.
- Therapy is the most common one. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often used. Other forms of therapy can also be used depending on your psychologist (or other type of therapist you see) and how you feel the best way of going about it is. There are clinics around the US that specifically specialize in treating trich.
- Some medications have been thought to help trich although none are officially approved for it at this time. Naltrexone and Topomax are two that some people have tried. Others have also been prescribed SSRI’s.
- Support groups specific to trich are also important to gain connections with those that are dealing with the same problems you might be going through.
If you want more information on trichotillomania, a wonderful site to go to is http://www.trich.org/index.html
Some other sites that give general information about trich include:
***(There is also another disorder called dermatillomania – this is similar to trichotillomania. It involves skin picking though, where a person will pick at there skin such as scabs until the skin is bleeding. If you would like more information about this, go to: http://www.skinpick.com/dermatillomania.)
I know a lot of us are sick of hearing “Let it Go” from Disney’s movie Frozen. But when you listen to it, it really has some interesting lyrics. I read this article a few weeks ago, and after reading it I decided to actually listen to the lyrics of the song instead of being irritated by the constant playing of it on the radio and kids singing it at the movie theatre and stores. I thought, “Wow! This actually kind of relates to me and my feelings.”
I haven’t seen the movie itself, and hearing the song repeatedly is still a little annoying to me after hearing it so often in the beginning, but I still do enjoy thinking about the song when I feel a little down.
Here is a link to the article. It was written by Nadia Ali, Ph.D. She is a health psychologist on faculty at Emory University’s School of Medicine, in the Department of Human Genetics. She has over 15 years experience providing psychological care with medically ill populations
Did you know that July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month? If not, you’re not alone. Sadly this month is often overlooked by the majority of Americans. It is a time when summer has bloomed, fireworks have entered the scene, and multiple summer parties and cook-outs are in full swing. It comes at a time of the year when so many people are outdoors, enjoying the summer time weather and penetrating sun. This lack of awareness, however, not only affects minorities struggling with mental health problems, but our society at large.
There are multiple things we need to do to bring greater awareness to minority mental health:
- Build awareness
- Remember services are difficult to locate
- Remind clinicians and mental health professionals to be culturally competent
- Understand that:
- Many cultures lack knowledge about mental illness or see it as taboo
- Lack support from their own culture to seek services
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