AFRO Preview: University of Maryland students weigh in on balancing school, work and life challenges

By Nia Smith,
Special for AFRO

This year, October 2 to 6 has been recognized as Mental Illness Awareness Week. Originally established in 1990, Mental Illness Awareness Week was created to educate Americans on the topic of mental illness.

On a college campus, mental illness is more prevalent than you might think. According to American Psychological Associationa scientific and professional organization with more than 146,000 members, during the 2020-2021 school year, “more than 60% of students met criteria for at least one mental health condition,” according to the Healthy Minds Study , which collects data. on 373 campuses across the country.

The University of Maryland offers mental health services to all students with the goal of recognizing and providing space for students to thrive. Ashley Ankapong, a journalism graduate and resident assistant, says she benefits from the mental health resources offered on campus. (Courtesy photo)

In another national survey conducted by the American College Health Association, nearly three-quarters of students reported “moderate or severe psychological distress.” Although these studies were conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic years, these numbers remain true. Students of color are more likely to not seek help with these issues, compared to their white counterparts, according to Suicide Prevention Resource Center. So how can we, on a college campus, address this problem?

THE University of Maryland Counseling Services, located in the Shoemaker Building on South Campus, is home to many mental wellness resources available to students. Here at the University of Maryland (UMD), the school promotes mental health awareness week by sponsoring activities and events open to all students. At a time when the seasons are changing and classes are beginning to resume, the University remains committed to prioritizing the health of its students in organizing these activities.

From depression screenings to mental health fairs, UMD has a wealth of resources that students can use to keep their mental health intact throughout their college years.

Merieum Easterling, a second-year UMD student majoring in information science and minoring in French studies, says she has personally benefited from the resources offered on campus.

“I know where the counseling services and resources are available in the behavioral health center,” she said. “One in particular that I used was their ADHD test.”

Merieum Easterling, a sophomore at UMD, says she’s improved her mental health by learning the signs of symptoms when she’s overwhelmed and taking steps to balance herself. (Courtesy photo)

Easterling says she learned to take care of herself by putting herself first.

“Knowing when I need to take a step back is very important,” she said, adding that these days she knows how to “look for the warning signs before you get to the point where.” [she] I can’t handle it.

Easterling said she’s learned some tips for managing her own self-care.

“Some of my personal advice is to listen to music and go home when [the] the opportunity is available. I also recommend taking a step back and doing things that help improve your overall mood, like talking and spending time with friends.

Being part of the Big Ten Conference, UMD is home to many student-athletes. With the pressure of classes and traveling across the country to compete with top schools, these athletes must keep track of their physical and mental health.

Student-athlete James Gladden is a kinesiology major and a sophomore pitcher for the Maryland baseball team.

When asked what he does to manage his mental health, especially from an athlete’s perspective, he says, “Honestly, I just do things that I love to distract myself, like baseball or be with people I enjoy being around.

James Gladden is a kinesiology major and second-year pitcher for the University of Maryland baseball team. He says he uses sports and time with friends to help him get through tough times. (Courtesy photo)

Gladden admits that while he knows it’s not the healthiest behavior, as an athlete, when it comes to difficult challenges, he was “always taught to put [his] head down, suck it up and learn from it.

Yet more and more higher education institutions are revamping and funding initiatives to help students with their mental health.

Ashley Ankapong, a journalism student and resident assistant, said she knew the university had a counseling center on campus.

Ankapong told AFRO that as a student, she learned some tips to improve her mental health.

“I use prayer and my journal, but I also have this handout the school therapist gave me last year about negative thought patterns,” she said. “I used this to remind myself to change my thought patterns from time to time.”
Nia Smith is a AFRO intern at the University of Maryland.

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