Somewhere along the way, as a society we have allowed mental illness to be criminalized and its sufferers to be delegitimized. We say that it’s important and needs to be addressed, but do the infrastructures or rules actually support this new change in the tide?
Illinois State University has free resources and counseling to help you through your problems and to understand what is happening in your life, but how accessible or helpful is it? Has anyone ever gone to the bathroom between classes and decided to do a mental checklist to see if any of our relationships are toxic?
For most of us, college is the first time we are allowed to date that person our parents would never approve of, and even if our friends don’t approve, we don’t feel safe to talk about it with anyone. It’s hard to see then, that the unfounded things they say to you that make you feel bad about yourself is a form of abuse. You don’t realize that that behavior is not okay, you rationalize it as normal; it has to be better than being alone.
What is even less known, is that a friendship or roommate can also be toxic. The “friend” you’ve always been there for but, despite that, continuously asserts that you are the major barrier to their happiness and welfare, is just as detrimental to your wellbeing as a romantic relationship.
If we don’t understand that these are problems in our lives, how do we articulate them to someone else?
Underlined and bolded in many syllabi, it is stated that make-up tests, quizzes or assignments will not be considered without a valid reason like a doctor’s note, death certificate for a family member or permission slip for a University activity. How is the validity of one’s feelings arbitrated if everyone has a different metric for trauma? How do you get a doctor’s note for emotional abuse or a death certificate for our shattered self-worth?
Every day we work through our pain, until one day we can’t stand up again right away, and we miss a test or assignment. How do you articulate to Dr. Abner, who you barely know, that you haven’t made it to class in a week and a half and missed an exam worth 25 percent of your grade because you just couldn’t bear the weight of your existence any longer? How do you communicate you didn’t study or do the reading because you could barely drag yourself out of bed to use the restroom or eat, let alone find the motivation for the non-essential facets of our lives? You don’t. You simply accept that a C will be the highest grade you can receive in the class, because you don’t think the personal days would matter.
It’s college, and the world is an even more competitive place, but it never had to be. The “struggle” exists only as a construct, designed by the few elites that run the world, to stay in power indefinitely. We have the resources to feed, house and clothe everyone many times over, but we’ve been told these things have to be earned through hard work and determination.
There are countless obstacles to our success that sometimes even we can’t see, let alone anyone else. Grades aren’t accurate indicators of competence or intelligence; the rules are stacked against some of us and it perpetuates systemic inequalities. A study in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education found that white students have a 62 percent college graduation rate, while black students stand at only 42 percent.
We grew up in a more understanding world than even our parents, we no longer have to suffer alone in silence.