With all the pressure put on students to succeed academically, participate in extracurriculars and maintain a social life, it’s no wonder more than 80 percent of college students reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do this past year. For students who live with high anxiety or anxiety disorders, this pressure can be amplified and more difficult to manage. According to Active Minds, “Mental health issues in the college student population, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, are associated with lower GPA and higher probability of dropping out of college.”

But when the pressure’s on, teachers have an opportunity to make a difference. Active Minds and The Mighty asked students who live with anxiety what they wish their teachers understood.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I wish they knew when I lacked in participation, it wasn’t because I didn’t care. I often enjoyed the subjects I was learning. I just physically couldn’t handle the assignments thrown my way. I wish they knew how often I vomited and shook knowing I’d have to face them the next day and let them know I hadn’t completed my assignment, yet again.” — Marissa Lynette Berube

A blonde, white woman hold her hand over her face. Text reads: "I wish they knew when I lacked in participation, it wasn't because I didn't care."

 

2.I wish they’d tell students it’s OK to come to them if they’re struggling because of anxiety. Because there’s such a stigma surrounding talking about mental health, I never know which professors will be understanding and which will think I’m just making ‘excuses.’” — Emily Prather

3. “I wish some of my teachers would have some compassion instead of assuming everything is just an excuse.” — Jen Hayes

Books are stacked. The text reads: "I wish some of my teachers would have some compassion instead of assuming everything is just an excuse."

4. “I wish my professor had known it wasn’t just a matter of adjusting to grad school. It was serious.” — Jennifer Rowe

5. “I wish my teachers understood putting me on the spot to answer a question, when I didn’t have my hand raised, isn’t helping me gain confidence. Confidence and competence have nothing to do with the situation. I am smart. I am paying attention. I don’t need to have a spotlight over my head to prove it.” — Tricia Rathgeber

6. “I wish it was easier to have absences excused. I’d much rather stay home than go and cry in class. That’s not an exaggeration by the way. I’ve had panic attacks in the classroom where I just couldn’t stop crying.” — Lee Dralling

7. “I’m finally graduating this semester after six years, but I feel like everyone thinks I’m making up excuses or I’m lazy. I literally get paralyzed with anxiety, and I can’t even get out of bed. I wish people understood it’s just as real as the flu or… anything else. It’s not something we’re making up because we procrastinated.” — Jessica Sprayberry

A male student wit dark hair sits at his computer wearing a sweater. Text reads: "It's not something we're making up because we procrastinated."

8. “When you put me on the spot to stand in front of the class, my performance is absolutely not an indicator of what I’ve learned. As you can see my by tests, quizzes and paperwork grades, I’m learning a lot. All of that goes straight out the window when you ask me to demonstrate on the spot.” — Alex Wickham

9. “My 12-year-old son who has anxiety said, ‘I sometimes wish they would just give me a moment to collect my thoughts. I know the answers but I need to take a breath before I give it.’” — Becky Burrier

10. “The one thing a teacher should understand is that calling on a student with social anxiety is a nightmare. Calling on students with social anxiety does not help them overcome it!” — Autism – Doesn’t Come With Instructions

11. “When I abruptly leave the room, please don’t make it a big deal.” — Paige Johnson

Chalkboard with text that reads: "When I abruptly leave the room, please don't make it a big deal."

12. “Sometimes I’m going to need to ask you to repeat instructions for an assignment several times. Please don’t make me feel bad about it. I just need to affirm to myself that I heard you right the first time.” — Nichole Cherin

13. “I’m not lazy. I try my hardest. I’m not lying. I do everything I can. Anxiety isn’t something I just made up one day.” — Lexie Sittsamer

14. “Usually it strikes out of nowhere and I have no control over it. I’m not trying to get out of anything or trying to get attention. I feel like I’m going to die when my panic starts and can only calm down if allowed to escape to a quiet spot. Then I can calm myself down and return to class.” — Anita Contreras Munoz

15. “I wish they knew how much time, dedication, tears, breakdowns and energy it can take to get an assignment done. But also how great it feels when you succeed!” — Jennifer Scinto

Hands are raised in a classroom. Text reads: "I wish they knew how much time, dedication, tears, breakdowns and energy it can take to get an assignment done."

16. “I have an intense fear of giving the wrong answer to a question out loud. So if I get it wrong, please realize how much courage it took to say anything, and don’t laugh at me.” — Chelsea Noelani Gober

17. “When I got in trouble in school, I wasn’t trying to be a ‘bad kid’ and it wasn’t a ‘phase.’ I needed help, and I needed someone to recognize that.” — Liv Raimonde

18. “My inability to function at times is not a result of laziness, procrastination or sheer lack of willpower.” — Christian Cochran

19. “I might be too scared to come to you. If you see me struggling, please say something.” — Ashleigh Young

A teacher writes on a chalkboard. Text reads: "I might be too scared to come to you. If you see me struggling, please say something."

*Answers have been edited and shortened. 

Want to start an Active Minds chapter at your school? Click here to learn more. 

Related: 34 Mental Health Tips Every Incoming Freshman Needs to Hear

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When you’re having a rough moment, a rough hour or an entire anxiety-ridden day, one friendly reminder may help turn it all around, or at least remind you that you’re not alone. To find out what people who live with anxiety need to hear in tough moments, we asked our Mighty readers who live with anxiety to tell us one text message they’d love to receive when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

If you have a friend or loved one who lives with anxiety, this may be exactly what they need to hear right now: 

1. “I’m always here for you if you need to talk.”

 

A text that reads: "I'm always here for you if you need to talk."

2. “How can I help?” 

A text that reads: "How can I help?"

3. “Just wanted to let you know you’re not alone in this.”

A text that reads, "Just wanted to let you know you're not alone in this."

4. “Thinking of you.”

A text that reads: "Thinking of you."

5. “I believe in you. You can and will get through this.” 

A text that reads: "I believe in you. You can and will get through this."
6. “You won’t feel this way forever. I promise.” 

Text that reads: "You won't feel this way forever. I promise."

7. “I love you…anxiety and all.”

A text that reads: "I love you...anxiety and all."

8. “Want me to come over and hang out?”

A text that reads: "Want me to come over and hang out?"

9. “It’s not your fault.”

A text that reads: "It's not your fault."

10. “You are and will always be enough.”

A text that reads: "You are and will always be enough."

11. “I’m bringing dinner.”

A text that reads: "I'm bringing dinner."

12. “I’ll always be there for you.”

A text that reads: "I will always be there for you."

13. “You’re safe.”

A text that reads: "You're safe."

14. “Remember to take a break!” 

A text that reads: "Remember to take a break!" with a smiley emoji.

15. “You’re not imagining this.”

A text that reads: "You're not imagining this."

16. “There’s a Netflix episode and a delicious meal waiting for you at home.”

A text that reads: "There's a Netflix episode and a delicious meal waiting for you at home."

17. “Do you need a break?”

A text that reads: "Do you need a break?"

18. “Take your time to feel OK. The universe will wait for you.”

A text that reads: "Take your time to feel OK. The universe will wait for you."

19. “No matter what, know I love you regardless.”

A text that reads: "No matter what, know that I love you regardless."

20. “You are and will always be enough.”

A text that reads: "You are and will always be enough."

21. “You are stronger than anything you are afraid of.”

A text that reads: "You are stronger than anything you are afraid of."

Related: 26 Pieces of Advice That Have Actually Helped People With Mental Illness

 


An artist found comfort and catharsis by making comics about her mental health challenges.

Comic strip depicting "real life horror movies."
Courtesy of Gemma Correll

Gemma Correll, 30, is a British illustrator living in California. She’s been drawing comics since she was a child and started making her own when she was 9 and selling them at school for 20 cents. Correll continued to draw throughout high school and eventually went to art school. Now she works as a full time illustrator, so she draws comics for fun on the side.

Comic showing "Adventures in Depressionland"
Courtesy of Gemma Correll

Correll’s comics about her daily life naturally evolved to include her challenges with anxiety and depression.

“It seemed dishonest almost not to include these things which were, and are, a big part of my life,” she told The Mighty in an email.

Pasta shapes with names like "Downward Spirals"
Courtesy of Gemma Correll

The reaction Correll got to her work encouraged her to keep going and taught her that many people could relate to what she was going through.

“I was hesitant to share them at first, but when I did, the response I got showed me that I was far from the only person suffering from these problems,” she told The Mighty. “When you suffer from anxiety and depression, you can feel very alone but I think it helps to see that you’re not the only one suffering.”

Real life "Anxie-trees." Trees with names like "Weeping Willow."
Courtesy of Gemma Correll

Correll says a sense of humor has helped her cope with her mood disorders and she hopes her comics help others see the humor in their situation as well.

The cover of Correll's book, called "The Worrier's Guide to Life."
The cover of Correll’s book. Courtesy of Gemma Correll

“I hope people can see the humor I use is coming from a place of understanding and empathy,” Correll told The Mighty. “I’m not trying to mock or undermine mental health problems — far from it. I’ve always used humor to work through and cope with my own problems. I really think it’s helpful and cathartic.”

You can purchase a copy of Correll’s book here, or visit her website and Tumblr page for more of her work.


A new study suggests the implications of paying women less than men aren’t just financial — they also take a toll on mental health.

Women are twice as likely to experience anxiety and depression as men are, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. A new study from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology suggests this disparity may be partially due to the wage gap.

The study, published in the January issue of the journal “Social Science & Medicine,” used data from a 2001–2002 U.S. survey of 22,581 working adults, ages 30–65, to explore the gender disparity in mood disorders.

Researchers found that where female income was less than the matched male counterpart, odds of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder were significantly higher among women versus men. The odds of depression were nearly two-and-a-half times higher, and odds of anxiety were more than four times higher. However, when a woman’s income was greater than her male counterpart, her odds for having anxiety or depression was almost equivalent to a man’s.

Past research has looked at biological factors such as hormonal differences to explain the gender disparity in mood disorder diagnoses, but this new study suggests the reasons behind it may be more related to social treatment.

“Our findings suggest that policies must go beyond prohibiting overt gender discrimination,” said Katherine Keyes, assistant professor of Epidemiology and senior author of the paper. “While it is commonly believed that gender differences in depression and anxiety are biologically rooted, these results suggest that such differences are much more socially constructed than previously thought, indicating that gender disparities in psychiatric disorders are malleable and arise from unfair treatment.”

Policies such as paid parental leave, affordable childcare and flexible work schedules may help lessen the disparity, although the study’s authors say more research into understanding the ways in which discrimination plays a role in mental health is required.

“The social processes that sort women into certain jobs, compensate them less than equivalent male counterparts and create gender disparities in domestic labor that have material and psychosocial consequences,” said Jonathan Platt, a PhD student and co-author of the paper. “If women internalize these negative experiences as individual-level issues, rather than the result of structural discrimination, they may be at increased risk for depression and anxiety disorders.”

To see the full paper, go here


 

As much as we’d all like to check our problems at the door when we go to work, some issues — especially anxiety — carry over into the workplace. It’s hard to deal with anxiety when you’re trying to be a “professional” version of yourself, and even harder if you have a boss who doesn’t understand.

So, we asked our Mighty community to tell us what they secretly wish their boss knew about working with anxiety.

To any bosses out there, here’s what your workers with anxiety want you to know: 

1. “Sometimes I just need a minute to pull myself together.”

Image: Man with glasses glances up at a clock. Text reads, "Sometimes I just need a minute to pull myself together."

2. “I am not my illness — I have a lot more to offer.”

3. “I’m doing my best.”

4. “I may be flushed, jittery or not talkative; I may need a moment away from my desk until meds kick in. It’s not all about you.”

5. “Sometimes I take on more than I can handle because it’s hard to say ‘no.’ And because I can’t bear to not complete a task and do it well, I successfully finish it. All the while, they’ve got no idea I had major anxiety attacks throughout the entire assignment.”

Image: Man lays his head on a computer, frustrated. White swirls are around his head. Text reads: "Sometimes I take on more than I can handle because it's hard to say 'no.'

6. “I would’ve loved a boss who asked, ‘How can we help? Is there anything we can do to make it easier for you to do your work?’”

7. “I don’t have much control over my anxiety. I can’t necessarily predict when it’s going to be manageable or when it’s going to be bad. It’s not a switch I can turn on and off.”

8. “I wish my boss could see how much I struggle to get out of the house. I wonder how I get to work at all… never mind on time.”

Image: Black and white latte on a plate with a spoon. Text reads: "I wish my boss could see much I struggle to get out of the house."

9. “Even though I may look calm or like I’m coping with everything well, there’s sometimes an iceberg of a storm brewing underneath. My ability levels vary day to day, and when my anxiety is stronger I can feel the layers of a storm build. Talk to me privately to learn more about how it affects me and understand me, so we can both mitigate negative responses or situations.”

10. “My previous boss once told me anxiety was a personal issue to only have at home. I laughed and said, ‘It’s not a coat. I can’t just check it at the door.’ It was a huge decision to disclose my mental health to my employer. Some days I wish I hadn’t, but overall I’m glad I did because they knew something was going on.”

11. “My need to control my anxiety may come out in ways that are beneficial to you. For example, my need to review a document several times before submitting could been seen as ‘attention to detail.’ Or my need to plan and control my schedule may cause my productivity to be higher than others’.”

12. “Don’t tell me, ‘Hey, I need to talk with you at the end of the day.’ I will literally sit in the office for hours thinking of all the reasons I’m about to get fired. If you want to have a conversation with me, just start the conversation. Please, spare me the torture.”

A woman in a light blue blazer holds her head in her hands. Text: "Please don't tell me, 'Hey, I need to talk with you at the end of the day.' I will literally sit in the office for hours thinking of all the reasons I'm about to get fired.'"

13.Despite my anxiety, I can perform my job to excellent standards. I just require certain accommodations.”

14. “I procrastinate at times because the thought of having one more thing to think about exhausts me.”

15. “Please: show compassion — not judgment. Show concern — not criticism. Know I need extra space and time, but I’m an extremely hard worker, a master problem solver and I care more than you could possibly know.”

16. “Putting on my social interaction costume every day takes a great deal of effort. I’m like a superhero, fighting battles and then going into seclusion.”

Image: Close-up of a man standing in a suit with a blue tie. Text reads: "Putting on my social interaction costume every day takes a great deal of effort."

17. “Lack of eye contact does not mean I’m not honest or interested. I’m most likely overwhelmed and regulating.”

18. “Sometimes I just need a little time and space to process whatever’s happening and calm myself down.”

19. “I overthink and practice every scenario and response. I need to know you understand my work means a lot to me.”

20. “My anxiety may inhibit me from diving right into a project, so my work timeline may look very different from yours. Trust that the work will get done.”

Image: Man sits at his desk in a gray suit. Text reads: "My anxiety may inhibit me from diving right into a project, so my work timeline may look very different from yours. Trust that the work will get done."

*Answers have been edited and shortened. 

 

 20 Things People With Anxiety Secretly Want Their Bosses to Know


Thirteen years ago, I was in college. I’d been struggling with worsening depression and anxiety, and after a conversation that left me very hurt, all I could think about was how much I needed to get away.

I kind of went into a trance. My mind was blank as I walked across town to a park. It was blank as I sat on the edge of a five-foot concrete wall that had a creek running along the bottom. When my sandal fell into the creek, I automatically jumped down to get it. And when I realized I couldn’t climb back up the wall, I picked a direction and started wading.

I walked and walked, long after I could have climbed out of the creek. The water went up to my thighs at one point, and I lost both sandals to the rocks somewhere along the way. It was only when the light started to change and I realized the afternoon was almost gone. I started to come out of my trance. I climbed the bank and came out on the side of a highway. I had no cell phone and no idea where I was by this point, so I picked a direction and started walking along the shoulder. My pants were soaked and I had no shoes. I didn’t even know what I’d do when I eventually got somewhere; none of my friends had cars, so I would be forced to call someone at the school to come get me. At the time, I wasn’t supposed to go outside a five-mile radius from campus, so I wasn’t sure what kind of punishment I might face. That’s if I even got someone on the phone who could help me.

A while later, a car pulled over. Inside was a couple that was probably in their late 20s and their child. The woman, the driver, leaned over to the passenger window and asked if I was OK. I told her that I went walking and now I was lost. She asked where I was going, and I told her I needed to get back to campus. She told me that there was nothing the way I was going for another four miles, and she offered me a ride.

I accepted. The woman had Smurf-blue hair, several piercings and the car was completely permeated with cigarette smoke. As she drove me back to campus, she showed me amazing kindness and grace. She asked what happened to me. I told her quite honestly that I wasn’t really sure; I’d just gone for a walk and it somehow turned out this way. She didn’t judge or push me. She just listened to what I had to say and told me it would be OK. She asked if she should call anyone for me or if I needed any other help. When she dropped me off at my dorm, she told me her name was Michelle and gave me her number. She told me to give her a call, “…if you ever go walking again.”

Thirteen years later, I still remember Michelle’s kindness. I could have been hit by a car. I could have been picked up by someone with less kind intentions. I could have faced disciplinary action for being so far off campus. And Michelle not only stopped to help someone in trouble, but also remained calm, didn’t judge and tried to make sure help was available to me in the future.

Michelle’s kindness showed me that someone doesn’t need to understand what you’re going through to be helpful. All someone needs is a sympathetic, non-judgmental ear and a willingness to help. It also helped me understand I wasn’t alone. With mental illness, it’s easy to feel like you’re invisible, that no one understands what you’re going through or even realizes you’re in trouble. The amazing thing about the kindness of a stranger, I think, is that someone cared enough to notice I needed help. And that made a world of difference.

You’ll probably never read this Michelle, but thank you for what you did for me.

Real People. Real Stories.

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