Returning to School
With the return of fall, many students are heading back to school or college. Whether in person, virtually, or in a hybrid setting, starting a new school year is often an exciting but stressful time. For students with mental health concerns, it can feel even more overwhelming.
As a student, it is critical to remember that your instructors or professors want you to succeed. Their assignments, deadlines, and constructive feedback are all given to help you grow. That being said, your professors can’t fully support you as a student if they don’t have a decent understanding of who you are and where you are coming from.
Talking to others about your mental health can be daunting, but these conversations are well-worth the effort. It is important to remember that many people are in your corner and want to help make the hard times a little easier – you just have to shed light on how they can do that for you.
Starting a conversation with your professors about your mental wellbeing can open the door for a world of support and understanding. Being transparent and honest with your professors at the start of the semester allows them to understand you as a student and as a human being. You are giving your professors a better understanding of your authentic self!
Laying the Framework for a Positive Semester
A discussion at the start of the semester can prevent them from jumping to conclusions if you are struggling. Additionally, having an initial conversation lays the groundwork for future conversations. For example, telling your instructor in advance about your anxiety makes future conversations about specific projects or assignments much easier. Remember- Your professors want to see you succeed, so this information is vital for them to prepare accommodations accordingly.
Often times students take the route of hiding mental health struggles and creating untruthful scenarios to get accommodations from their professors. These lies can diminish your professors’ trust in you as a student. These “white lies” are usually told due to the stigma that still remains around mental health. People are afraid that if they are honest about their mental health, they might be looked down upon or judged. In short, many people are afraid of being authentic and vulnerable.
In reality, every human will face a mental health concern or difficulty during their lifetime, albeit some more often or more intense than others. Speaking up and being honest about your mental health is a more effective form of communication than making up excuses or imaginary scenarios. Being open and honest with your professors will build authentic trust and respect.
Taking accountability for your actions is another critical concept to remember when talking with your professors, particularly as you are moving through the semester. When asking for accommodations, doing so with the right intentions is crucial and it shines through. For example, if you didn’t complete an assignment, take ownership of your action before you ask for leniency or an accommodation. Communicating that you are willing to put forth the extra effort to make up the assignment as soon as you are able and that you aren’t trying to “get off the hook” helps these conversations go smoothly. Showing your professors your emotional maturity and self awareness goes a long way!
Initiating the Conversation
Go-to tips for initiating a conversation about your mental health:
- Communicate with your professor in advance, stating that you want to talk to them about an important and private matter. Ask them when would be a convenient time for them. If they have office hours listed, suggest during one of those time frames.
- Genuinely thank them for setting aside the time to talk to you. Showing them that you appreciate them will help them feel more inclined to deeply listen to what you have to say.
- Be up-front and honest about your mental health challenges or what situations you are facing in your life. Be concise and to the point. You don’t have to tell them your whole story- just enough for them to get the picture.
- Express to them your concerns in relation to their class and your overall academic life. Make sure to state that you are wanting to succeed and you would like their assistance in creating a game plan for your success. If you have any specific concerns, this is the time to voice them.
- Let your professor talk, and truly listen to what they have to say. Listen to understand and comprehend- don’t listen just to respond.
- Continue the conversation. Discuss potential challenges, potential solutions, what you have struggled with in the past, how you have succeeded in the past, etc. Create constructive and positive dialogue working towards understanding and support.
- After the conversation is over, thank them again for their time, consideration, and support. Let them know that you will reach out to them again in the future as the semester progresses.
Ending the Stigma around Mental Health
Having these types of conversations can be nerve-wracking but ultimately help foster positive outcomes. These conversations contribute to breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health in our society as a whole. Advocating for yourself paves the way for others to advocates for themselves as well, ultimately contributing to the normalization of mental health concerns for everyone. While having these conversations in the academic setting is invaluable, these same skills can be applied to other areas of your life as well. When talking with friends, family, and other members of the community, consider ways you can be a little more vulnerable and authentic about what we are really experiencing. When we speak authentically about our human condition, we open the door for positive change.
At LifeTutors, we work with LifeClients on a daily basis to grow emotionally and mentally. Our LifeTutors support our LifeClients in many situations, including in situations like this. Whether talking to a professor to talking with your family, having these kinds of honest conversations can be difficult. Our LifeTutors provide individualized coaching and support so LifeClients can learn how to navigate tricky conversations and social situations. Empowering our LifeClients to be advocates for their mental health is one of our top priorities.
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Call us today to see if LifeTutors would be the right fit for your young adult and family!