You are surrounded in a sea of people but everyone is occupied. The world keeps spinning and never stops for you. There’s no time to breathe. Somehow you are surrounded by 100,000 other students yet you feel completely alone. Adult society’s obsession with independence seems to lay the groundwork for rampant loneliness.
As a child, I was known and valued nearly everywhere I went. As a university student I have to push hard to be known by professors, staff, and even to other students and colleagues. This is a period of transformation and transition where students learn to deal with being more solitary. But a value for the solitary, and for independence, can be problematic when it hinders help-seeking behavior.
Reaching out for help isn’t easy especially when you lack clarity. Students grapple with a future they can’t see. Any lingering illusions of a picture perfect future are splintered by a harsher reality. Many of us are detached from how we once identified. The cliche is true: it can be easy to lose your sense of identity and ask “who am I?”
This is why it’s important to keep in touch with people we trust from our past, and also to create new places, friends, and acquaintances that provide safety and belonging during our time at U of T. Getting through transitions and the ebb and flow of overwhelming emotions requires deliberate practice, patience, and integrity.
Knowledge of the many services offered by U of T is vital too. Where do I go when I need help? Answering that question is key to standing on firmer ground. Everyone, no doubt, will experience intense challenges as a university student. However, sharing your challenges, and letting people help carry your heavy load can make a difference. “Independence” does not mean you must do everything yourself. Part of being independent is recognizing when you need help.
It is easy to be convinced that you are broken and that nothing and no one can help you heal. But you are not alone. You may not see it, but everyone around you are also fighting in the same battlefield everyday and we need to help each other. When you share your struggles and are helped by others, you learn to develop a stronger sense of yourself, evolve, and accomplish what you never thought you could.
Do not blame yourself for diminished mental health. The smallest accomplishments, like just getting up today or drinking water or going for a walk, are to be cherished. You’re not crazy or mad. You have the right to be sad, to be angry, to be happy, to strive to feel better. And we all have a responsibility to ourselves to have the gumption to reach out. You’ve got this, I promise.