Advocate, author argues mental health is for everyone

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Author of “Behind Happy Faces”, Ross Szabo, spoke to UT students on Thursday, Nov. 5 in the Alumni Memorial Building about the importance of mental health and how it affects everyone, especially college students.

On average, 76 percent of students report feeling overwhelmed and 11 percent report actually getting a good night’s sleep. According to Szabo, mental health is not just about being clinically depressed or having a diagnosable problem; it is about how you handle your challenges and struggles. 

“When I say the words mental health tonight, I don’t want you to think ‘oh that’s not for me, I’m good,'” Szabo said. “Mental health is for you. It’s as important as your physical health.”

Szabo displays to the audience that the clear definition of what mental health is can sometimes be blurred. When you google “mental health” the images that come up are mostly celebrity breakdowns and school shootings, which he explains are not what mental health is.

“Our definition of mental health is what is wrong,” he said. “Mental health isn’t having a problem at all. Mental health is how you address all the problems in your lives. Its how you deal with stress and lack of sleep. Its how you deal with dating. Its how you deal with breakups.”

So, what does all this have to do with college students? Szabo says that it has everything to do with college students. When asked how many hours of sleep they received every night, few people were close to the eight hour mark.

“One of the most effective ways to break a human being down is to only allow them to sleep three to five hours a day,” Szabo said. “The average college student in this country sleeps four to six.”

He reiterates in his lecture that college students are living on the same amount of sleep that the military uses as a torture method.

The whole lecture wasn’t just about sleep as Szabo reminds audience members that just because you are sleep deprived or your sleep schedule is messed up, does not mean you have insomnia. Just because you are nervous or anxious, does not mean you have anxiety. Just because you are sad, does not mean you have depression.

Sophomore Meredith Maroney found the lecture very helpful.

“I think it’s really relevant to talk about it and to talk about the resources that we have and that we probably need to add,” she said.

Mental health is an important part of overall health and when in a stressful environment like college it is important to know what resources are available to you and how to manage and care for your health.

For more information on how to handle and manage mental health you can visit UT’s counseling center which is free to all students.

Featured Image by Sam Maneri

Edited by Jessica Carr

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