One foggy morning Alice was having trouble getting ready for her university. Although she lived only 10 minutes away from campus, she just couldn’t make it on time. This was all because of a feeling! A feeling of having a massive brick on her chest.

It was an important day for Alice. She had to do a presentation on her research article. The lecturer and her classmates would be the audience and give her feedback, but she was not in a state of receiving any criticism, good or bad.

All sorts of unfavourable thoughts and emotions started plaguing her mind. What if she failed? What would happen to this assignment if she cannot make it today? What if she cannot graduate on time? What will her parents say? Will her friends abandon her if she fails? What if she is the only one left behind in her cohort?

It was only 8:00 a.m. in the morning and class starts from 10:00 a.m. but everything felt a little too much to calm down within the next two hours. Alice somehow managed to get up from the bed and made herself a chamomile tea and returned to bed.

When she got up several hours later in the afternoon, she felt inextricably shameful of herself. The extra sleep did not help anything; neither her grade nor her mental health.

Alice never opened up about her mental health to anyone at the university. The memorable elements like closeness and intimacy with friends had completely vanished from her university experience.

The university accommodation was too expensive for Alice, so she lived independently in the old town several miles away from campus proximity. The structure of her class schedule didn’t help her interact with many students. The large lecture rooms which accommodate around 300 students of her Bachelor of Business degree did not help her enough to make friends either. Social activities included alcohol and as she had a liver condition, even this opportunity did not help her ‘fit-in.’ Even if she forced herself to attend those socials regardless, small-talk was never her forte. Unlucky Alice!

Alice could never ‘fit-in!

Alice could never confide in any of her lecturers about the daily struggles or get their recommendations as she could never manage to get close to them. She felt clueless and ended up suffering all by herself.

Alice only sought professional help after she graduated. Mental health is heavily stigmatized in South Asian cultures. She had internalized all these damaging beliefs which had prevented her from seeking professional mental health support.

It was a mental health awareness campaign in Singapore Alice came across during her vacation after her graduation that helped her understand how much she needed professional help.

It took a lot of courage for Alice to talk to her parents about the struggles and obstacles she had to go through because of her mental condition. Although her parents initially were in denial and defensive, they eventually understood her need to see a psychologist and supported her therapeutic journey.

Take charge of your mental health:

-Join social clubs and groups to meet other students and minimize social isolation. They may be related to the course you’re studying, your hobbies, culture or language.

-Consider guided meditation, mindfulness and self-compassion as techniques to help you manage your well being and stress.

-Remember, there’s a positive association between positive mental health and academic outcomes.

Source: Professor Lena Sanci and Divya Peters, University of Melbourne

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