During these difficult times, it is necessary to focus on mental health

Senior Megan Cushman loves driving. Racing by the blurs of trees and the green leaves and the sea of colors or driving the familiar route to Panera to enjoy a nice meal of soup, she finds comfort in being alone and turns up the radio.

No matter what Megan is feeling on a bad day, whether that be emptiness or all of her feelings at once, she enjoys driving with the music on.

“[Driving with the music on is] my best alone time because of the music,” Megan said, “so when I feel a lot, I like to sing really loudly to express what I’m feeling. But if I feel really empty, I also go driving, but I don’t sing to the music; it just kind of sits there and fills the empty space.”

Driving has helped Megan get through tougher times in regards to mental health, which has been especially helpful through the pandemic and the absence of face to face connections.

“[The pandemic] was really difficult for me at times because a big part of getting that serotonin is getting that face-to-face connection,” Megan said. “[Over the phone is] not the same. It doesn’t do the same for me to be happier and more fulfilled, but I guess I just try to do my best.”

A large part of Megan’s mental health is “quiet reassurance.” Having people around her—even if they are not doing anything or talking—helps her through her struggles and the pandemic is putting a damper on that.

If you’re just in a good attitude and positive about things then you’re much more likely to have a small impact on everybody every day and just make the whole atmosphere and community a little happier.”

— Brian Travis

While the pandemic has been hard for many people such as Megan, junior Brian Travis has had a little more luck with his mental health.

Brian’s entire family is at home with him through this pandemic, and the company is welcoming.

“The most basic thing is that with my family, just spending time with them on a daily basis [is nice],” Brian said. “If we’re doing our own work for a while, just having them as company is really helpful. It makes [me] feel like [I’m] not really struggling alone; daily interactions are always helpful.”

Along with daily interactions and familial support that Brian finds important to keeping his mental health up, counselor Kyle Perkins believes honesty is a key to a healthy mindset.

“Be honest with yourself and be honest with other people,” Perkins said. “If you’re struggling, acknowledge that; if people ask, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ and it’s someone that you trust and care about, open up to them, be honest with them, and tell them, ‘I’m not doing well’ or ‘I’m struggling’ or ‘Here’s what I’m struggling with.’ I also would encourage people to have a healthy balance in their life. For students, it would be a balance between school, family, friends, activities, and not feeling bad about prioritizing time for themselves or time for nonacademic activities.”

One of Perkins’ roles is to help students work through situations that are stressful and help them improve their mental health. He gives people suggestions of how to relax and he occasionally gives connections to outside counselors.

Many students, including Megan, have or have had therapists or other outside resources beyond counselors to help them with their mental health, and like many others, Megan started therapy so she could manage her health.

“Everybody knows they can’t do it by themselves,” Megan said. “I think the more you say, ‘I’m ok, and I can do [this] by myself’—once you say it enough times—it feels so wrong that you can’t stand by and do nothing anymore. You might be okay with how [your mental health] affects you, but it usually affects other people so negatively that you have to work on yourself so that you don’t push yourself away from other people.”

With this crucial look at herself and her mental standing, therapy has had its positive benefits—something many students turn to in tough times or for support. Brian, another student who has had a therapist, also received help so he didn’t have to go through anything alone.

“[Therapy] helped me,” Brian said, “because it gave me good skills for the future in case I ever need help when I’m really stressed, keeping myself in a good mindset and happy.”

Improving mental health is important, something students come to realize, and it can be a struggle for quite a long time. Megan learned that making sure you are there for yourself is a crucial part of keeping up with good mental health.

“You’re the most important person in your life because you have to live with yourself,” Megan said. “You should do everything for yourself because no one else is going to do it for you, and through loving yourself and doing everything for yourself, you’re going to become a much better person for everybody else to be around.”