Raise your hand if you’re a mental health advocate who struggles to prioritize your own mental health.
If you don’t relate to the above statement, I am honestly so incredibly happy for you. But if you can relate, I want you to know that you aren’t alone. Being a mental health advocate is really hard work. It takes a lot of dedication, long hours, and if you’re an Active Minds chapter president like me, a lot of commitment to the cause. Don’t get me wrong, being a chapter president and a part of the Student Advisory Committee have been some of the greatest things I have ever been a part of in my life. So much so that I will be beginning my internship with Active Minds in just a few short days. But in order to make the changes that I aspire to make, I need to accomplish something even harder: prioritizing my own mental health.
Some may think that having positive mental health is something easy to achieve, and maybe it is for you (I‘m so proud of you if it is!). However, for me, prioritizing my mental health has taken almost as much commitment and flexibility as my role as a mental health advocate. If you’re also a full-time student who is worrying about GPA, your social life, and grad school apps, this can be even harder! But I learned the hard way that I’m useless to the cause and to the people I work to serve if I can’t be a role model or an example for those who are struggling as well. While I can still function, and do what needs to be done when I am not feeling my best mentally, my best work comes from my best me, and that what I want to be able to give to those around me.
It took a lot of hard work, discernment, and support from others for me to be able to prioritize my mental health and not feel like I was slacking or not giving 100% just because of that. Not only do I need to be my best me to be the best advocate I can be, but I also deserve to live a life that I am proud of. And for a mental health advocate like me, a life I am proud of has to include positive mental health and self-care. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, this is a lot easier said than done (as many of you may understand). But as many of my incredible friends, family, and fellow mental health advocates have taught me, a huge part of mental health advocacy is being able to prioritize your mental health and help others do the same.
So, if you are into New Years resolutions like me, try to make a resolution to prioritize your mental health in this upcoming year. You deserve to be happy and healthy in 2018! And if you can, join me and many incredible others in the fight against the stigma of mental illness and mental health!
Dana is a chapter leader at Loyola University of Maryland and a member of the Active Minds Student Advisory Committee.