Managing Your Mental Health at College: Don’t Despair—Help Is Available

Everyone likes to talk about the fun and the laughs at college, but no one really wants to talk about the deeper issues. Mental health has always had a stigma, and, despite how far we have come, it is still something that is whispered about among family and very good friends.

But let’s face it: College is hard work and a huge adjustment. Having the tools and the support is the key not only to being physically healthy but also mentally healthy. Because not all of us really think about our mental health. Sometimes it begins to creep in when you realize that you may have taken too many hours or signed up for a super hard class that at the time seemed like a really great idea. Or it might rear its ugly head during midterms or final exams, and none of us really knows it’s there, sitting on our shoulder.

Recently I found myself needing a little extra help. I realized that I wasn’t super woman. Little did I know that Longwood has an entire school of experts just waiting to help us. Young adults, probably more than any other demographic, seem to think they can do it all and that asking for help is a flaw.  But sometimes asking opens up an entirely new world that we didn’t even know existed.

Did you know that the Dean of Students Office manages something called the Care Team here on campus that is made up of professionals from departments across the campus? Did you know that students who are studying psychology and social services act as interns to learn firsthand the needs of their fellow students? Did you know that they are available 24/7 and are just a phone call away?

I didn’t!!!

Whether it be depression, anxiety, stress or even a problem with your roommate, there is ALWAYS someone that will listen. No judging, no lecturing, no shaming—just help. Let’s face it, sometimes all of us just need a little extra help.

Finally, for you parents reading this, did you know that you can call the Care Team if you are worried about your student?

It could be that you haven’t heard from them or they won’t return your calls. Or perhaps you have an idea that there might be something going on. The Care Team will reach out and never let on that you called. It may be a professor or an RA or even someone from the Care Team, but they will never give away your secret!

Because remember, we still want to think that we’re grown up and that we don’t need anyone’s help. But deep down inside, sometimes we really do!

Hindsight is 20/20: Spring Semester Finals Week Will Be Better

Photo #1

The fall was beautiful here at Longwood. A sense of security finally settled in as I finished up my first semester. Then slowly all those warm and toasty feelings began to dissolve like the colorful leaves outside my window.

Conversations turned to the dreaded word “finals.”

Finals aren’t something that students really discuss. It’s more like a hush or a dreaded secret— something you see at the end of your new syllabus.

Now that it’s all over I can now give you the truth: Finals week was just the worst!

As you can see by my first picture, I started out feeling super positive (Photo #1). Surely it couldn’t be much worse than finals in high school. I couldn’t have been more wrong.


Photo #2

As I looked out my window at Curry with finals just around the corner, all I could see was the humongous crane hanging outside. (Photo #2) I was ready for it to come smashing through my room and save me from the week ahead. I guess I really didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps I thought I could “wing it” like I had done so many times in high school.

But college is a whole new world. I tried to study, tried to push myself, stayed up all night and crammed like never before. It didn’t work. I felt myself going into a week of no sleep, no food and a feeling of twilight that even Starbucks couldn’t fix.

Photo #3

My third picture speaks for itself. Yes, even a tear might have been shed at some point. (Photo #3)

But you know what? I did it. I made it through my first semester at college—finals and all.

Through all the worry and the tears and the lack of sleep, I learned something:
—I learned that this semester I’ll know what I’m getting into.
—I learned that the next time I want to roll over in bed and skip a class that I’m going to make some coffee and trudge on.
—I learned that you have to take the good with the bad.

Second semester here I come!


Falling for Fall at Longwood

Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love the crisp bright leaves and the smell of burning wood in the air. Growing up it was a time for bonfires and roasting marshmallows. Every year we would have a huge Halloween party. We would get in trailers and go through our neighborhood trick-or-treating. The kids were in one trailer and the adults in another. It would take us forever because we were being pulled by a tractor, but that is what made it so fun.

My mom used to tell me stories about when she was in college and her mom would send her care packages at Halloween. Because my Mom grew up in Chicago and went to college in Texas, she never experienced fall at her alma mater. So her mom would send her a box of leaves from her yard just to make her feel less homesick. I think I heard that story a million times.

Two weeks ago I received my Halloween care package. Sure enough, down below all of the candy and the spooky decorations were my leaves. It made me feel happy and sad. Happy to be part of a family tradition and sad because I wasn’t home partaking in the yearly traditions that I loved growing up.

But then I realized something. I was sitting at my desk in my high-rise dorm looking out over campus, and all I saw were the bright colors of fall right out of my window. How lucky I am to be in a campus environment that is so beautiful. I love that when you come into town you can see where the campus begins and ends. I love that I can walk from one end to the other and be surrounded by such history. I love that the new buildings look like the past. I love that Longwood has continued so many traditions that I want to be a part of.

So, yes, I do get homesick, and I do miss my friends and family. But I’m steadily making new friends, forging relationships with my professors and thinking about my future at Longwood.  I’m embracing my fall here and still eating the candy my mom sent weeks ago. I’m excited to see what the next season will bring. So stay tuned!

On a side note: My mom and aunt were one recent weekend and brought me pumpkins and scarecrows and homemade chicken pot pie and, yes, more Halloween candy!!!

My Home, My Place, My Town

Bella and her mom, Deborah.

Despite the fact that I’ve been away from home now for almost seven weeks, I really haven’t gotten my first bout of homesickness. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I miss my family. But when I’m back home, I miss my new life in Longwood even more!

From the time that I was 9 years old, I spent four weeks every summer at camp. I can remember my mom saying she waited by the phone that first week convinced I would be calling her to come and pick me up. But I never did make that call.

My mother brought me up to be adventurous, and together we have traveled the world.

But that first night that I spent in my own room in Curry Hall at Longwood, I realized that I had found my home, my place, my town. I was in love!!!

This past weekend I came home to help care for my mother after she had surgery. It was so good to see her and be with her, but I couldn’t stop thinking of my new home—Longwood.

I’m sure I will continue to have bouts of loneliness and at times I will question what I’m doing. But, for right now, I’m loving my new life, and I am ready to enjoy every minute of it!

Longwood Is Home Already

I’ve been at Longwood for more than a month, and I already consider this my home. That’s something I thought would take much much longer to say because I’ve lived in the same place for 18 years. I’ve only gone home twice, each time for family purposes. When I’m back at my home town, all I want to do is come back to my real home: Longwood.

There really is no better feeling than just being on your own and learning how to provide for and take care of yourself.

For example, I have done laundry twice, and I actually love doing it because you actually feel like an adult.

Another thing I have learned to enjoy is cooking for myself. Obviously I don’t make very intricate meals, but I’m really good at making pasta. I’ve got it down to a science. D-hall is pretty good—it just gets old having the same stuff over and over. A fun tip: I take Tupperware and fill it up with ingredients to make my pasta even better. I don’t do this often, but you are already paying for the meal swipe.

Just remember that everyone is feeling nervous and homesick. Talking to the Care Team has helped. They give you ideas on how to make the transition to Lancer life.

Getting Oriented

Bella (in the back seat) and her mom get a ride to the next orientation activity.
Bella (in the back seat) and her mom get a ride to the next orientation activity.

Coming in I was very nervous and confused about a lot of things, but everyone was super helpful and nice.

The day started off with chifilia minis, fun raffles and pretty much a huge pep rally. The top peer mentor spoke first. It was calming to find out he had struggled immensely at first but is now helping upcoming Lancers know everything will be OK and that just because some of us make mistakes it’s how we grow from them that matters. The housing department then gave this hilarious presentation and rules and regulations on living on campus.

We were then split up in groups by our majors and headed to our corresponding buildings. The education meeting was very informative: They handed out information on the Praxis and even gave out different pamphlets on the different majors describing the classes required.

We then went to the computer lab to take the language placement test. Don’t freak out like I did because I didn’t take a language in high school. The test proctor was very nice and even set me up to take American Sign Language.

Then we met up with our parents and had lunch. The new students were able to use their new Lancer ID cards, which made it official. Lunch was amazing, and the peer mentors sat with the families to answer all the questions we had.

Mrs. Mitchell in financial aid was very nice. She answered my hundreds of questions and didn’t even bat an eye. My mother, who has bad knees and can barely walk, requested a golf cart, and everyone involved bent over backwards for her.

Everyone was so nice, gracious and helpful it makes me excited to become a Lancer!