What every college student needs to know
“It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to get help,” Tony D’Angelo, publisher and producer with Collegiate Empowerment, told Bethlehem and Monroe Campus students and those watching a live stream online at Northampton Community College (NCC).
Collegiate Empowerment brings educational presentations, seminars and retreats that help students gain perspective and get conversation started with hot topics for students. The program, 1 Reason Why Not, addressing mental health and well-being came to Bethlehem and Monroe Campuses on World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10.
D’Angelo started by talking about how there are certain barriers for students on their journey to getting a degree, including financial challenges and sexual assault, which Collegiate Empowerment addressed at NCC in 2018. Mental health, another obstacle in the pursuit of education, was the focus of D’Angelo’s talk.
In fact, D’Angelo told students that one in five people experience mental health issues each year. It’s what we do to bring awareness and seek help that make a difference in how we handle those issues moving forward.
A big contributor to mental health issues among college-aged students is social media. Those who spend time on social media for long periods of time are 50% more likely to develop mental health concerns, such as depression. One student even said that she sees other people’s posts on her Instagram, and she compares herself to them and their lives. What D’Angelo emphasizes, however, is that we are seeing a “highlight reel” of people’s highs with none of their lows or what makes them human or relatable. We think we need to achieve that unattainable level of perfection, and it causes mental distress for us.
“Limiting our use of social media may help us in more ways than we think,” D’Angelo said.
D’Angelo went on to discuss finding ourselves in a drama triangle in life, the prosecutor, the rescuer and the victim. The prosecutor tends to tell others why they are wrong and how to correct that, the rescuer tends to help others without regard for a person’s ability to help themselves, and a victim finds themselves feeling lost and helpless to the things that happen to them. We interchangeably find ourselves in each of these roles, sometimes stuck in one role for a long time. “We go to these roles, but it doesn't mean it is wrong to be these from time to time. If it happens too much, we all tend to slip into victimhood where we are hurting and feeling unhealthy,” said D’Angelo.
How do we escape that drama triangle? We can find ourselves in new roles. As the victim, we could become a creator and survivor who reflects on good things that are going our way and what we achieve in life with an, “I can do it,” mentality. Instead of being a prosecutor, be a firm but fair challenger while setting boundaries on imposing a point of view on others. Rescuers can try to empower others as coaches instead, and give others tools without solving and fixing it for them.
D’Angelo’s words hit home with many in his audience at Bethlehem and Monroe Campuses, and he closed by asking everyone to honor those lost to suicide, a tragic outcome Collegiate Empowerment uses discussions like this one to help prevent.