In the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership’s final Spring Speaker Series, host Dr. Lauren Cook advised students on ways to fight the stigma of mental illness.
If students cannot recognize the signs and onset of depression, psychosis, anxiety and eating disorders, then they will not know how to deal with their resounding effects properly.
“So much of the work is normalizing it, naming it and helping us learn how to actually deal with it (mental health affinities),” Dr. Cook shared.
The stigma surrounding mental health affinities commonly leaves room for solely two treatment options: therapy and medication. Although effective, many individuals with mental health disorders do not feel comfortable incorporating these methods within their lives.
Dr. Cook recognizes that this hesitation is implicit among college students and recommends various ways to improve your mental health without incorporating these methods. Exercise, meditation and relaxation techniques, socializing with friends and incorporating nutritional foods within your diet can all assist in improving your mental health.
Although these techniques can improve student's mental health, Dr. Cook recommends that affected individuals get their blood drawn and get their hormone and vitamin levels evaluated.
“If there is something biologically happening, where your hormone levels are off or the vitamin levels in your body are off, that’s an easy intervention point that you can see huge differences in. Make sure you do your due diligence, and look at all the different treatment options,” Dr. Cook stated.
For incoming students, the resounding effects of mental health affinities are the most prominent. Dr. Cook projects an increase in overall anxiety levels, particularly surrounding students coming to Salisbury in the fall.
“We are going to see a sense of overwhelmed, of how do I navigate a new normal. But just remember, we are all a little rusty and socially out of shape,” Dr. Cook ensured incoming students.
The influx of anxiety on campus is not stagnant to incoming students. One of the most stressful times in a student’s career is their graduation and life after college.
Dr. Cook works with many graduating seniors and has observed a pattern of disconnect, with many not actively processing the prospect of graduation. As COVID-19 has removed the traditional aspects of graduation, it is crucial to recognize the significance of this event.
“It is really important to lean in and process that you are, in fact, graduating. Whether that includes a little bit of a grief experience of knowing you are not going to see your friends in the same way or that your life is going to be changing. You have to allow yourself time to really process (graduating) and get in touch with those feelings, whether it be through journaling or talking about it with other seniors,” Dr. Cook commented.
Do not look at graduation as the end but look at it as the beginning. Celebrate this accomplishment and be proud of your ability to graduate during a nationwide pandemic.
As a society, we have experienced a multitude of disappointments throughout the year. Graduation provides the opportunity to celebrate a monumental accomplishment; be sure to celebrate to the fullest extent and do not diminish your accomplishment in any capacity.
“Even if it’s not graduation in a traditional sense, be sure to account for the circumstances. Not only are you graduating, but you are also graduating in the middle of a pandemic. Celebrate yourself and honor the work that you have done,” Dr. Cook shared.
Whether you are staying on campus for the summer semester or going home, be sure to implement daily efforts to better your mental health. Whether that be going for a walk, doing yoga or talking to a physician, be sure to provide personal accountability for your mental health status.
“It does get better. It can get better. I want you to hold on to that hope and use different things (methods) to get better … You are enough just as you are. We sometimes feel that worth is rooted in accomplishment and achievement, and we often think that’s where our happiness comes from. Plot twist, it's not! When we live our lives that way, it's like a bucket with a hole in it; it feels like it is never enough. Do the internal work of knowing you are a worthy, lovable and [a] valued human being … surround yourself with people who see that and celebrate that, and who challenge you to be even better,” Dr. Cook stated.
To contact Dr. Lauren Cook and receive daily mental health support, you can follow her Instagram @Dr.LaurenCook. Salisbury’s Counseling Center will be operating under their summer hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; contact their offices for mental health support.
By STEPHANIE RIVERA
Gull life editor
Photo Credit: Dr. Lauren Cook.