Last Wednesday marked the fourth You Are Not Alone event that the College Council Mental Health Committee has organized. For those who have not attended, You Are Not Alone is an open forum for students to talk about issues that have impacted their mental, psychological and emotional health.
Although I have planned and attended three You Are Not Alone events during my time at Williams, I am always amazed at the bravery I see in those who stand up and share their stories in front of hundreds of people. I am equally amazed at the amount of support and love that is present in that space.
Most importantly, You Are Not Alone has helped me realize something critical about our community that we often fail to admit during our constant pursuit of the ideal Williams lifestyle:
Being at Williams is hard.
This statement may seem vague or perhaps lacking in substance, but it is something that needs to be said.
Being at Williams is hard. Thriving at Williams is even harder.
I, along with many students, have questioned my place at Williams. At one point or another we have all doubted ourselves – doubted our ability to maintain relationships, our ability to be academically successful or our ability to function outside the purple bubble.
Some of us struggle only once in a while. Some of us struggle every minute of every day. We struggle with depression, break-ups, sexual assault, grades and problems with friends. We struggle with sexuality, family issues, illness, death and body image. In short, we all carry something. Too often at Williams we ignore what should not be ignored and we sweep our problems under the rug. It is easy to tell ourselves that what we’re dealing with isn’t important enough or that we’re not important enough to ask for help.
As someone who cares deeply about the state of mental health at this institution, I have mixed feelings about the success of You Are Not Alone. On one hand, it is incredibly gratifying to have a designated time and space for people to share their battles with issues of mental health. On the other hand, this event has made it clear that peoples’ problems at Williams are real and pervasive and in many cases, not being addressed.
I am stunned by how many Williams students feel as if their general health should come second to their work, their sport or going out on a Friday night. It is also disconcerting to see how little we ask for help at Williams. Sure, sometimes it is easier not to acknowledge our issues with mental health. It is easier to answer “I’m fine” or “I’m good” when someone asks how you’re doing than to say that, actually, you’re having a bad day, week or semester.
Why is it so hard for us to admit that we have problems? Is it that we think that we are alone in our struggles? Is it that we feel that we have to conform to the general sentiment that we have it made at Williams? Yes, we’re all incredibly lucky to be at Williams. But that doesn’t mean that our happiness and health should be sacrificed.
I wish Williams students would acknowledge that it is important to not only support others, but also to pay attention to their own needs.
Though it may sound hokey, I challenge you as a member of the Williams community to be your own friend. I realize that this is easier said than done, especially in our world of ceaseless papers, problem sets, practices and parties.
I challenge you to think about how you’re really doing and to be okay with acknowledging that maybe you’re not doing so well and need some help finding more stability and happiness.
No matter how much or what you struggle with, it is still important. Your struggle means something and should be addressed. Know that you are not alone in your struggle. Know that there are people here who care about you and want to help you get back on your feet. Most importantly, know that it is okay to face hardships, as long as you acknowledge that you deserve fulfillment and happiness and can take the steps to get there.
Gia Recco ’14 is a political science and anthropology double major from Hoosick, N.Y. She lives in Pratt.