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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Why Mental Health Isn’t A Priority

The time is 7:47 a.m. Class begins in 13 minutes, and I am frazzled, anxious and nervous. I have an exam later in the day. Did I study enough? What if there’s a question I don’t understand? What if I am horribly unprepared? I have a knee injury. What if the bandage slips off during the day? What if I begin to bleed again? But that has to wait. Knee injuries don’t get an A in the class. I have a migraine. Did I drink enough water? Was it because I hadn’t eaten anything yesterday? But that migraine has to be ignored. Migraines don’t help on multiple choice questions. I could get medicine. But that costs money and time. And I can’t afford to spend another penny. And I don’t have enough time. I didn’t get enough sleep. But getting a full night’s rest had to be sacrificed for exam preparation. Sleeping through time I could use for studying won’t get me a high GPA. My friend had invited me to an event tonight I desperately wish to attend. But I can’t go. Attending an event won’t help me complete the essay that I have due tomorrow.
And so the cycle continues. A vicious cycle of anxiety, restlessness and putting aside my needs in favor of the demands of school. And education institutions wonder why students don’t make their mental health a priority. We don’t make our mental health a priority because we cannot afford to do so. We have bills to pay, exams to pass, essays to write, and, amidst all this, we are expected to balance our mental health and a social life. We don’t make it a priority because focusing on our migraine today won’t help us for the exam tomorrow. We don’t make it a priority because we live and breathe in an environment that subtly demands we don’t. Assignments, exams, and bills are the molecules we breathe in this environment. And all these molecules demand an attention that trumps attention to our mental health.
One thing that always confuses me is that we are encouraged to ensure our mental health is a priority while breathing in a festering and anxious environment. And this is the key issue: the problem with mental health today isn’t that students don’t make it a priority—it’s because making it a priority would compromise everything that we are working towards. You cannot fix an issue without addressing its root, and the root of mental health complications are that education is primarily geared towards numbers and grades, rather than the well being of students. I can’t think of why, for, wouldn’t ensuring the well being of students only serve to benefit everyone?
But I can’t ignore that the efforts that encourage making mental health a priority do catch the attention of some students. The counseling center on campus composes one of these efforts. While addressing the mental health of college students would require a renovation of the education system, I can’t ignore that the active advertising of the counseling center is probably getting the attention of students who are anxious and restless; like me. But students like me wouldn’t have to exist if our education system didn’t make so many demands of us. These demands are ones that cannot be ignored, for they make or break our future—but they cause us to spiral into a deeper abyss of unaddressed mental health problems.