I’ve spent a lot of time telling people how to find a place that I’ve never been to. Every year, I tell my residents and my peer mentees that Counseling Services is located on the bottom floor of Heinz, and I remind them that it’s important to go if they feel like they need it. I want to help end the stigma that seeking out support for mental health is a negative thing.
I spent so long thinking that the way to end that stigma was to encourage others to utilize counseling resources that I didn’t realize I was a victim of the stigma. I have been staying on track with my classes, using my friends as a support system, and staying organized with my extracurricular activities. Counseling? That wasn’t something I needed.
But by defining my success by the fact that I didn’t think I needed counseling, I was contributing to the stigma that seeking counseling means that you’ve failed to be successful as a student. In reality, using your resources and setting up systems of support is much healthier. I tell my residents that all the time, but I realized this semester that I needed to practice what I was preaching.
That was how I found myself traversing the labyrinth that is the ground floor of Heinz. I just kept heading down the steps and following signs, turning so often that I was completely unsure of where I was in relation to the world outside. I finally found the office and set up an appointment. Filling out the initial form was long and time-consuming, but I was glad I did it.
Walking into the office for the first time was strange and unfamiliar. Some things were expected – the couch, the tissue box. Some things weren’t, like the fact that I started crying as soon as I walked into the room. Having a safe space on campus, and someone who only wants to listen and help, is much more meaningful than I could have imagined.
So now I can say from experience, to all students at Arcadia: I’ve been to counseling, and it helps. It’s an important resource. Don’t ever think that going to counseling means that you have failed. Go. You’re worth it.