According to Active Minds, a nonprofit organization that aims to destigmatize mental health, nearly 40 percent of college students experience a significant mental health issue. Still — whether that’s due to stigma or lack of accessible resources — two-thirds of students with anxiety or depression don’t seek treatment. Here, six students share the best advice their therapists ever gave them.
Note: This article is not meant to replace therapy, and students’ responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Over the two years I've been working with my therapist, we've had conversations about various stressors in my life, whether it’s my extensive schoolwork, time-consuming extracurriculars or complicated relationships with friends. I have learned that nothing is gained from keeping your feelings inside and trusting that you can deal with them on your own.
Your body is what you look like, but it’s also the manifestation of everything you are: everything you’ve overcome, learned, loved, believed, experienced. If you can learn to see your body — the parts you love and the parts you wish you could change — as a physical representation of everything you've done in your life, it can transform how you think and feel about yourself.
Setting boundaries is hard, but you should never apologize for making your needs and limits known. It will save you the pain of dealing with transgressions of those boundaries later. I have a history of letting friends use me as a therapist, mother or tutor. This pattern kept repeating, and I was exhausted enough to actually take my therapist’s advice and have hard conversations to break some codependencies. I think it was worth it, but change is always uncomfortable.
There’s no other way to get out of pain than by accepting it’s there and feeling it. I had been going back and forth from book to book for some explanation — neurological, psychological, religious — of why I had suffered more than I could withstand. My therapist noticed I was looking for an explanation, so I could explain away the pain. She knew before I did that it just doesn’t go away like that.
You’re allowed to check the rear-view mirror, but if you look back too much, you’ll never be able to keep driving forward. My anxiety stems from worrying about things in the past or things I can’t control, so this metaphor is super helpful.
However, you learn that you can handle it, ride the waves of life, and recognize that your experiences have made you resilient and kind. It helped me recontextualize my trauma and experiences as something I could handle and grow with in realistic terms. It was really helpful for thinking about my depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as experiences I can use to be more kind to other people.