Creating A Discussion Around Mental Health

This article comes from the Global Desk, a collaboration between The Gazelle, WSN and On Century Avenue. Read more by searching ‘global.’ MELBOURNE, ...

Oct 18, 2014

This article comes from the Global Desk, a collaboration between The Gazelle, WSN and On Century Avenue. Read more by searching ‘global.’
MELBOURNE, Australia — Studying at NYU Abu Dhabi is intense. Every day I felt pressured from my professors, peers and myself to have the best internship, lead a Student Interest Group, get straight A’s and start writing a game-changing capstone. I was also in a completely new and foreign environment. I was constantly overwhelmed, I felt obliged to stay busy and I thought I couldn’t talk to my friends about feeling stressed.
I should have been able to put up with all this pressure, right? I was at the World’s Honors College after all. But after two years of being an NYUAD student, I started to crack. I could never free myself from the looming expectations. Even during the summer I thought I had to intern, take a class or do research at the least. I was also surrounded by some of the world’s most successful students, a fact NYUAD would often remind us of. Under these conditions, I definitely had no time for a break; I needed to keep performing and stay competitive. I was also afraid to talk to my friends about all the pressure because I thought feeling stressed was expected of us. By prioritizing my GPA and C.V. over my mental health, I was setting myself up for failure.
By staying busy it became impossible for me to realize that my stress had reached a critical state. I should have spoken more openly about my stress to my friends. As a community, we also need to speak more openly about stress. Rather than comparing workloads, we need to shift our focus towards checking in with one another. Simply asking someone how they are “feeling today” doesn’t cut it. Sometimes this simple question put me on edge, because I didn’t think I could answer honestly. If you care about your friends, take time to sit down with them and try to understand how their day is really going. Real conversations about how we’re feeling can make the difference between becoming overwhelmed or not. In order for our community to effectively tackle issues of mental health, we need to start talking.
We also need to talk more openly with the school about mental health to develop the best support for students. When I spoke with Dean of Students David Tinagero, he told me the university’s role is to “make sure that we provide you with the support you need in whatever context you find yourself.”
So it’s all up to us, we just need to visit Dean Tinagero and ask for the support we need. Don’t wait for you or your friend to buckle under the pressure; if we begin openly discussing mental health at NYUAD today, we can make ourselves a lot happier.
I thought I could wait out the four years of my degree before needing time off, but because of stress, I ended up suddenly leaving Abu Dhabi for a break this semester. No matter how well I could ignore the pressures of being an NYUAD student, they were constantly taking a toll on my mental health. But these pressures didn’t have to be ignored, they didn’t have to take a toll on my mental health and we can change that today. Go and sit down with a friend this week and find out how they feel about the pressures in their life. Discuss ways our school could offer support to address these pressures. Most importantly, keep talking about mental health.
James Smoley is a contributing writer. Email him at
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