End the mental health competition


Today marks the end of Trinity’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a much needed call to attention for students, staff and faculty at this university. Through collaborations with Chapel | Spiritual Life, Counseling Services, Residential Life and more, Trinity’s Wellness office has done a wonderful job at providing education about mental health and its stigmas, as well as creating physical spaces where the community can get connected with resources they need. This increased awareness is critical and responds to concerns regarding heightened depression and anxiety during the pandemic. However, efforts like Mental Health Awareness Week will go to waste if students can’t take mental health seriously.

Trinity is notorious for being a rigorous university, but this often translates to toxic student behaviors. While Counseling Services, various student organizations and Trinity as an institution tries to combat the stigma around mental illness and suicide, there is simultaneously a strange “flex” culture about having poor mental health. It’s not uncommon to hear classmates trying to one-up each other, arguing that they slept fewer hours or ate fewer meals because they were studying. It can even go to extremes, with actual diagnoses of anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses being thrown out as if they earn students points in conversation with others. Make no mistake — dialogue about mental health is necessary to fight the negative stigma it carries. In order for campus mental health to improve, students must shift their conversations from bragging to helping each other get the help they need.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, most students who face mental health issues that impact their day-to-day life aren’t the ones who announce “I’m going to kill myself” on the fourth floor of the library. While stress about school and extracurriculars can feel overwhelming, we must not inflate the issue to the point of obscuring more intense, on-going mental health problems. Having such a negative culture around poor self-care and health can make it difficult for those who need resources most to cut through the noise. It could also make struggling students feel uncomfortable speaking up to peers when the response is competitive rather than supportive.

As long as Trinity offers resources to improve mental health and address crises, students should feel empowered to use them. Whether you’re experiencing something debilitating and acute or have trouble sleeping because of academic stress, the goal should always be to find help. Implementing coping strategies or new habits to improve your day-to-day should be the flex, not racking up problems to feel like a valid Trinity student. Our campus is at its best when we are at our best. It’s time to turn the toxic culture around and encourage each other to take care of ourselves.