The fall semester is looming and summer will soon be winding down. College students across the country are savoring their final days of summer– days void of homework deadlines and upcoming exams. With each new semester comes new opportunities and experiences to enjoy. For some, the prospect going back to school is exciting, full of yearning for the days that carry packed schedules and nights that never end. For others, returning to school can be daunting and sometimes unwelcomed.
If you left last semester feeling like campus was missing something, it’s time to up your game. Back to school season is the time to cultivate change! Believe you can and will make a difference on your campus and in your day-to-day well-being.
Here are five ways to get the ball rolling:
- Bring a club to your school that gives students the opportunity to talk about their struggles with mental health. Organizations such as Active Minds provide great resources to students to help change policies related to mental health on campus. They can even help you plan events to educate other students on issues surrounding mental health. If you are interested in bringing an Active Minds chapter to your campus, fill out the interest form.
- Review policies with campus administrators. Cultivating relationships with offices such as the Counseling Services or the Office of Student Life will allow you to engage in conversation and voice student concerns. Administrations are open and interested in hearing student perspectives on how the school can improve the mental health resources that are available to students.
- Identify the policy you and your peers want to change. Sound overwhelming? Don’t worry, there are resources available to guide you through the process. Does your ID card have mental health crisis numbers on the back? If not, check out Active Minds’ ID Cards Campaign to add these numbers (including Crisis Text Line) to your student IDs – that way, your peers will have mental health crisis numbers on hand when they need it the most. Another option is to add mental health education to orientations and first-year experience courses as a way to involve first-year students in mental health advocacy. For more information, check out the Active Minds Transform Your Campus guide.
- Involve the student body to help initiate action from the conversations already happening on your campus. The student government associations on your campus can also provide substantial support to fund your events and initiatives that will energize the student body to become mental health advocates. Increased involvement from the student body will only help you and embolden those around you to take part in your desire to bring change to your campus. Inspiring others to follow their passions will help to give you sustained devotion and ambition to continue to pursue your aspirations to be an impactful mental health advocate.
- Lead by example and prioritize your own self-care. Reflect on what worked for you last year and brainstorm some new ways to stress less. Break out those coloring sheets, try your hand at journaling, sign up for a fitness class with a friend, discover new recipes, schedule time to call family and friends, binge watch your favorite series—the list goes on. There’s not one set formula for self-care in college; what works for one person might not be your cup of tea. No matter what, setting aside time to do the things that help you take care of your own mental health will inspire your peers to do the same. There’s no pressure to be the best, just be your best self.
You are not alone. As a student, you have the power to help cultivate a culture on your campus that values an open dialogue about mental health. Be the champion that you wish you had during times of struggle. It takes a single person to start a movement and you have the ability and strength to be that person. You are an asset to your campus and you are able to be the changemaker your school needs. Kindness and compassion can go a long way in making someone feel like they have the support that they need and showing them that they are never alone. Always remember that the world needs you here. Opening up the conversation about mental health will help increase help-seeking behaviors and will have an everlasting impact on your campus culture.