Being a post-secondary student can be an amazing experience. You get to meet new people, get started on working toward your career, move out on your own for the first time, and more. But in a post-COVID world, we’ve also learned that many post-secondary students are experiencing mental health issues. In fact, in September 2022, the Canadian Alliance for Students Associations found that three quarters of students reported experiencing negative mental health in their studies.
And if being a post-secondary student isn’t challenging enough, imagine the pressure our student athletes feel.
College of the Rockies Avalanche volleyball player Rose Howard is one of those students.
“I feel overwhelmed every day,” she said. “It comes in waves with some days being more intense than others.”
Rose arrived at the College with a history of depression, anxiety, and ADHD so adding the pressure of post-secondary and balancing that with her athletics, time with friends, and time for herself is challenging.
“Fortunately, most of my friends are on the volleyball team so we go to practice together, work out together, and go together for a Booster Juice after practice so I am able to combine my commitment to the team with time with my friends.”
Taking steps to care for her mental health is important to Rose. She journals every morning and every evening, using daily check-in forms that help her to externalize everything she is feeling inside. She often places those forms on her bulletin board to remind her, rather than letting the feelings bottle up. She also tells herself on the tough days that her anxiety isn’t her intuition and that she has control of the outcome of most situations and that the feelings she is experiencing will pass.
As an athlete, Rose takes care of her physical health. She knows, however, that physical health doesn’t last forever.
“I hope to remain physically healthy for a long time, but my brain is something that will be with me a lot longer than any six-pack I may or may not have. So, unless I am in tune in my brain and in my mind, nothing else is really going to work.”
Rose will return to the College in fall 2023 for the academic year – and for the Avalanche’s 2023/24 season. She hopes to continue to explore her mental health and to continue growing.
“My biggest thing I want to work on is to feel my range of emotions. I read somewhere that if we resist, it will continue to persist. I have a tendency when I am feeling depressed or down on myself to isolate and just spend as much time sleeping in my bed as possible, hoping the feelings go away. The truth is, though, giving in to it just makes it grow more intense. I am trying to learn to let myself cry more or let myself laugh out loud, even if it’s a snorty laugh, which I do have.”
As a student in the Human Service Worker program, Rose is also trying to create a space for others where they can feel safe experiencing their full range of emotions.
“How am I supposed to be comfortable expressing myself in front of others if I can’t create a safe space for them in return?”
Studying in the Human Service Worker field can pose additional stressors on Rose’s mental health, and she sometimes feels she is in over her head. Her ability to take some perspective and to engage in positive self-talk helps her to traverse those obstacles.
Overall, she is glad she chose to begin her post-secondary education at College of the Rockies.
“I love the College. A lot of my friends went away to university, and they describe it to me and it’s like they are just a student number. They never get to talk to their professors or they’re in class with like 200 students,” she said. “Walking through the College you recognize everyone and stop and have conversations with your professors – or even if they’re not your professor, you kind of get to know each other through passing in the hallways.”
She feels the small college experience has been beneficial to her overall mental health and academic performance.
“I believe that being in a bigger school would have a negative impact on my mental health. The College creates a space where I feel heard by my teachers, and I’m surrounded by people who want me to succeed. Not having that support would have a negative impact on my mental wellbeing, and therefore, would impact my grades. I’m glad I chose to attend the College.”
Rose’s words of advice for students starting their post-secondary journeys this fall is simple: failure is ok.
“Failure often has very little to do with you. Maybe the setting you’re in just needs to be adjusted,” she said.
There’s not a single thing in the world that could have prepared me for the jump from high school to post-secondary. Luckily my instructors are always there for me, so I encourage students to communicate with your profs, make friends, and work on time management. And remember to treat yourself the way you want to be treated by others. The supporters I have in my corner, I feel like they are always in my head, even if they’re not around, and I know what advice they would give me. Those people are the ones that are going to be there for you in those trying times when you don’t want to get out of bed.”
College of the Rockies has supports available for students who may be struggling. Our counsellors are available in person or online for personal counselling appointments. If you find yourself in distress outside of business hours, please contact:
Crisis Line Interior Crisis Line
The Suicide Hotline Crisis Centre (https://crisiscentre.bc.ca)
1-800-784-2433 or 1-866-661-3311
For less urgent matters, resources include:
Empower Me – a solution-focused counselling service available for students on the College’s health plan. Available 24/7 in multiple languages https://studentcare.ca//
Here2Talk – a free single-session service by app, phone, or online chat available 24/7 (Here2Talk)
1-877-857-3397 or 1-604-642-5212
For International students
Keep.meSAFE (by guard.me) – provides services in a variety of languages for a variety of counsellors. (My SSP – Home)
Additional resources are available on our website if you have experienced sexualized violence: Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response – College of the Rockies (cotr.bc.ca)