Mental Illness Awareness Week Guest Blog by Catalyst Center Intern, Priya Setty
October 6, 2022
Mental Illness Awareness Week
Guest Blog by Catalyst Center Intern, Priya Setty
I was in the middle of my freshman year when COVID hit. My first year of exploring the UC Davis campus and its people had been cut short as we were sent home early to quarantine. What seemed like a lengthened spring break turned into two years of lacking campus life through my college experience. Staying home was an adjustment. Isolation at home caused a lack of human interaction that sparked issues that I never had before.
I have always been a very social person. I would make friends in classes so that we could work on homework together. I would run into people at the dining hall. I would initiate meet ups with new people I wanted to be friends with in my dorms. But during quarantine, I lacked an outlet for socializing. I could no longer ask someone to study with me in my dorm study lounge. I could no longer meet my professors during office hours. I could no longer remain social.
Through out those two years, I got used to it. I became ok with the idea of not meeting many people or interacting with others on a regular basis. But something changed from my pre- to post-quarantine life. I no longer had the social skills I once had. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I began to experience social anxiety in multiple social settings. I’d fear having to talk to a professor one-on-one. I’d overthink every sentence that’d come out of my mouth as I met new people. My mind would constantly run wondering if I was “normal” and if I was interacting properly. I didn’t know how to handle myself around people anymore.
As someone who has experience anxiety and panic disorder since high school, this was another added facet of my mental illness- a different type of anxiety I did not typically experience. I had to adopt new coping mechanisms to combat such social anxiety. But with around 30,000 students on my campus, I was not alone. I met old and new friends, all of which struggled with depression, anxiety, and stress during the pandemic, and while transitioning out of it. Going back to in-person classes was mentally difficult for many, and caused our mental challenges to heighten. With the engrained ideas of needing to be productive and seek academic validation, keeping up with school and our mental health felt like an overwhelming plate handed to us. Instead of being at a point where we were comfortable and familiar with campus and college life, I, along with many, were juniors and seniors going to an in-person class for the first time in years. We had to relearn the ropes, work through our issues, and excel in our classes all at once.
It is times like these that highlight why we need strong mental health support systems implemented into our education system. Professors and faculty who were willing to accommodate students, and be understanding and compassionate of their positions were the ones who helped make this transition significantly better for us all. Those who provided resources for those struggling opened a door of vulnerability and comfort that we would’ve otherwise lacked in facing mental health challenges in a college setting. Though it was a path I am still on as I continue to struggle with mental health issues, I am proud of the developments that have occurred throughout this journey. The greater focus on the youth mental health crisis is necessary and has already sparked change. I hope to see a continued growth in how we as a society tackle mental health issues and what we do to help youths facing such challenges.
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