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Thursday, February 4, 2016

My latest for The Huffington Post: "Four Mental Health Tips for the Back-to-School Season"


It's that dreaded back to school season. We're at the halfway mark -- except you lovable overachievers going year round or on trimesters -- as the countdown to summer vacation officially begins. High school seniors are probably wondering: how am I going to prepare for my next (or final) semester, how am I have going to have fun and still get good grades, or will I even get into the college or the apprenticeship of my choice? College seniors are probably wondering: how am I going to finish strong, how am I going to juggle classes along with my new relationship and a full time job, or how will I find an internship or the job that I love?
On top of it all, students are probably feeling intense pressure to succeed and to be some sort of "perfect" (what does that mean anyway?) from professors, parents, and those carefully placed after school special TV PSAs. It's enough pressure to make a person break into two. To have a successful transition back to school and to stay in one piece, you need to develop resources to live mentally healthy and to repair those metaphorical cracks in the brain when everything around you seems like its falling apart you feel like you might crumble. 
  1. Know how and where to find your campus resources: One of the biggest keys to success while in high school or college is to know where and how to access resources of help. That could involve hiring a tutor, knowing where the counseling office is located, how to find events on campus, or if you're in college, which campus job is the cushiest.
  2. Developing healthy habits: While emerging from a six-week period of depression and suicidal thinking while I was in college, I realized I needed to develop new tools to dig myself out of the hole I fell into, and give myself a fighting chance to keep myself out of that hole forever. I had to develop healthy habits. Some of mine included getting on a regular sleep schedule, cultivating positive friendships, healthy eating and exercise, creativity, and getting into counseling to talk things out.
  3. Reframing failure: By changing the word "failure" to a "lesson learned on the way to success," your possibilities become nearly limitless and the hurt from falling on your face becomes only temporary.
  4. Creating a support system for yourself: the foundation of any personal success, great or small, is reaching out for temporary support and then long-term sustainable support. Temporary support can be: asking for directions at a gas station, government assistance, a crisis line, a student loan. Sustainable support can involve: reaching out to friends, family, a therapist, and/or mentors. Reaching out for support can feel like a little win, but over a period of time the support you receive can result in big gains.
For more college mental health resources, you can reach out to Active Minds, and The i'Mpossible Project. For more high school resources you can reach out to TeenLine, and The Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation
If you or someone you know needs a little extra help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.