Being a part of a community is crucial for mental health


By Paul Delutio

We at the University enjoy the privilege of attending a top-tier institution. Our University undoubtedly lives up to its name, offering some of the most rigorous academic course loads in the nation, among other public institutions.

Upon being accepted, some of us thought, “Number One Party School!” Others may have thought “I need to work hard for the next four or five years.” If you thought the latter, it’s more than likely that things got overwhelming quickly.

Although it may seem simple enough to separate these two vastly different mindsets into two extremes, many of us fall into the gray area where our academics and our social lives butt heads. Balancing these two things becomes essential to our mental welfare, and this often becomes one of the greatest challenges for college students everywhere.

When effectively handling the many obligations of college life becomes too difficult, it can be incredibly damaging to our own mental degeneration. Sometimes this imbalance feels seemingly irreversible, and with a slew of other outside factors — family issues, relationship troubles, strained friendships or a host of other things — this can become overwhelming enough to us as students that mental health becomes a serious concern, whether or not it’s your own. 

I say “we” because suicide is something that affects everyone in a community, whether you were a close friend of the victim or maybe just someone who held the door for them walking into class one day. Maintaining the “we” is the first step in creating a community of people who care for and support one another, and with suicide becoming a rising issue on college campuses, it is more important than ever that we reflect on how we respect and deal with one another.

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With access to online suicide referral forms, weekly suicide prevention workshops at the Illini Union and walk-in assistance at the Student Assistance Center, there is no doubt that the University does what it can to provide services to aid in mental health. But the University can only do so much.

That’s where the students come in. No one knows victims on our campus better than the friends of those who are struggling. In four years, it’s more than likely you will see and interact with the people of this University more than your own family.

Therefore, I ask you to consider every stranger you pass on campus each day. Think of how many feelings and thoughts that are going on in your own head as you blindly pass many others with similar plans, worries and commitments. If we take a moment to consider that others may need help, we can find the motivation to do what we can for them.

You know better than anyone if you’re going to need help getting through the day. If you know you can get yourself through the day, seek out ways to help anyone else through the day. Holding the door a little longer than usual, greeting your friends with a smile and enthusiasm, maybe, dare I say it, giving up your spot on the bus for someone else — offering assistance to anyone, no matter how small the gesture, will always make a difference.

And for those of us who are resistant to a helping hand: many of us are faced with a newfound independence that is scarcely defined. Personally, I love and appreciate my independence. However, I work hard to understand when my independence ends and my need for others begins. 

It’s easy to think that because you are an adult now, you can handle everything on your own. The truth is, everyone needs support in their life and we should all look favorably upon the help of others. Once we accept the help from others, it’s also important for us to determine what kind of help we benefit from most, whether it be assistance in delegating an overwhelming amount of tasks, counseling or just a friend to listen to our day to day struggles.

When we were accepted into the University, we all made the decision to make this school our home. Just like your real home, you want to look out for your family members. I challenge everyone, including you, to become more aware of what others around you are feeling.

Strive for our campus to be one in which suicide is a rarity. Let’s create a community where everyone has someone to turn to during their most trying times. 

Paul is a freshman in LAS.
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