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The Mental Health Advice I Wish I Got as a Freshman in College


You’re going to college — congrats! I’m sure you’ve read a million articles about things to bring, how to make the most of your classes and become a microwave chef. I definitely did. There’s a lot of information out there, but I want to give you one more piece of advice I never got: don’t sacrifice your mental health for anything.

I get it. You’re in a new place, surrounded by new people, and you want to fit in. You want to have the “college experience.” You want to have fun. But please, hear me. You do not have to do things that are uncomfortable or dangerous for your mental health, even if other people don’t understand.

If you have anxiety and you know alcohol makes it worse for you, don’t drink. If you have panic attacks and you don’t want to be in unfamiliar spaces with unfamiliar people, don’t go. If you have depression and you can’t leave the dorm on the weekend, it’s OK not to. If you have an eating disorder and you don’t want to go to the big birthday dinner, you don’t have to go. If you’re working on yourself and you don’t want to date, don’t date. If you’re in recovery and you think a situation might be triggering, don’t engage.

If you have asthma, no one expects you to do the Color Run. If you have a broken leg, people don’t expect you to “just put one foot in the pool.” Mental illness isn’t any different. Don’t put yourself in risky situations. Most importantly, don’t apologize for it. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s not because you’re a “prude” or “uptight” or “boring” or “holier-than-thou.” It’s because it’s not the right choice for you. It’s because you don’t want to. It’s because you want to be safe and balanced. It’s because you are yours.

Your mental health matters — take care of it. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

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Thinkstock photo via Jacob Ammentorp Lund.