Starting or heading back to university can be a stressful time for the strongest of people. A new school, new classes, moving to a new home and sometimes a new city can bring with it the weight and pressure to succeed and being prepared for the future.
Montreal resident and Concordia University student, Alexis Lahorra knows all too well what these stressors can do to youth who struggle with mental health during these transitional periods. Through her pre-university times at Collège d’Enseignement Général Et Professionnel (CEGEP) and now at university, Alexis had trouble with the direction she wanted to take with her schooling, an all too common problem. The decision on what to study and how to prepare herself for a successful and happy future caused her a lot of stress. On top of these common issues, Alexis was also the victim of online bullying. While trying to keep this harassment a secret from her friends and family, she became increasingly isolated which caused her even greater stress. After a while, her friends and family started to notice that something was wrong and they asked Alexis to seek out the help and support that she most desperately needed.
Alexis took full charge of her position and used resources that were available at Concordia University to learn coping skills which greatly helped her and improved her mental health. Her success and experience with the program has since had her advocating for mental health awareness on the school’s campus through Jack.org, which we have previously written about. Alexis has shared with us these mental health tips to help parents and students through these transitional periods.
Mental Health Tips for Back to School
1. Talk about mental health. Open up the dialogue, be a little informed, and create a comfortable space to talk about mental health. Ask questions to assess how they feel, identify concerns, and plan ahead to ensure a safe and optimal university experience.
2. Listen and don’t judge. The goal isn’t to judge but to understand. Never dismiss problems or give advice. Don’t try to fix the problem but simply make them feel heard. All experiences are valid.
3. Connect to help. Share that there are many people to talk to (school counsellors, family doctors, helpline, parents, etc.). Offer to be with them as they reach out to a helpline, counsellor, etc. as some may find it scary.
4. Show care and concern. Use a calm tone of voice. “I care about you and I’m worried about what I’ve seen.
5. Ask questions and reflect. Show interest, reflect, and include feelings. “Tell me more about that.” “How are you feeling?” “That sounds really hard.” Ask them how you can help and what support they need. Never be afraid to ask the tough questions. “Are you thinking of hurting yourself?” Have you ever thought about ending your life?”