The Denisonian

It’s okay to not be okay: are we facing a mental health epidemic?

Manvi Jalan ’18

The first time I accepted I was depressed, I found myself walking out of a choir class in a stupor, trembling in the warm September air. I sat with a friend and told him I finally realised what he had been trying to tell me for months now. It comes back to me now — the lonely, terrifying afternoons I spent last spring, abroad in a beautiful Spanish family’s home, my host mother looking at me concerned, asking me if I was okay because I looked deeply sad to her. I had said no, I was fine, blatantly denying her concern.

I have spent the last three years of my college career running away from the idea that I am sick and that this is not me. As an international student from India, coming from a family that doesn’t believe in pills, I have adapted, reluctantly, to the American definition of depression, a partly biological illness that is not my fault.
I have also internalised the expectation of engagement that Denison demands from its Denisonians. As my senior year rolls on, and I am forced to decide what the future will bring me, nothing I do feels like enough. What was supposed to be the most exciting time of my college career feels like a dark cloud where nothing is enough.

I want help. I try to find it by going in and out of Whisler’s busy halls and see vaguely familiar faces walking through the counseling offices.

Almost everyone I know has dealt with mental health issues in one capacity or another. It makes me question how much attention we are truly focusing on self-care and mental health as students in an institution. How are we collectively struggling? What can we do to help each other?

I consider myself lucky with caring professors who are flexible, to a reasonable extent, when it comes to accommodating mental-health aids. But being in an intensive academic environment surrounded by incredible fellow students can be stressful and it can often mean that we push ourselves beyond reasonable limits. As a seasoned senior who has been in denial for far too long, this is my gentle nudge to our community to go easier on ourselves and remind ourselves that nothing is the end of the world.

We are allowed to seek help when we need it. We are not burdens. We will be okay when we decide we want to be.

We have the opportunity to define our own success at Denison, and it doesn’t always mean being everywhere and doing everything ‘right’. Take the edge off, go grab a beer and laugh about life with some friends because this is what we will remember when we are gone.

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