My name is Rachel Reed, and I’m a junior studying wildlife biology. I’ve had three on-campus jobs like being a SOAR leader, I’ve served as a peer leader in GEP 101 and I am the former Student Activities Council live entertainment co-chair.
Long story short, I love Missouri State, and I love being a part of it in any way. But during the fall of 2019, my mental health took a dip to the lowest point I’ve ever experienced and my academics were brutality interrupted.
I live with depression. I struggled to get out of bed most mornings, spent most of the time in my bed and unable to get up to clean, shower, etc., had trouble focusing when I made it to class, felt pretty hopeless about ever getting better, slept a lot more than normal and at any time of day, lost my appetite … you name it.
Depression is much more than a mindset, laziness or just being negative. It’s a mental illness. My brain doesn’t produce the right amount of chemicals for productivity and motivation. At the end of the semester, I had failed two out of three classes I took, and was lucky enough to take an incomplete in another. (An incomplete grade puts a “pause” on a class, more or less, to be completed within a year.)
I never pictured myself needing some of the resources Missouri State has to offer. But life happened, and I did need them. Missouri State’s resources are real, they are helpful, they are kind, and they care about students. I dealt with many different departments on campus in my journey through depression, and here’s how each one helped me. I have decided to exclude names of people just to be confidential and keep things simple.
Throughout the semester, I had communicated with my professors a few times to explain my absence or that I was struggling academically. When reaching out to explain my absences, they always responded with encouragement and the opportunity to talk with them about anything, academic or not.
Later, a class with frequent presentations was weighing on me hard. I had no energy to practice the speeches, and frequently couldn’t get out of bed the day of my speech. First, I emailed my professor that day and asked if I could speak another day. She happily agreed.
A few weeks later, I emailed her again, this time being much more honest. I was honest with her about my mental health struggles, that I didn’t really have a plan for completing the speeches, but I wanted to let her know. She responded again with understanding. I was told to take my time, let her know how she can help, and she included information to the Counseling Center.
This email showed me she really cared about my well-being beyond the classroom, and being met with kindness was very powerful to me. It’s hard to explain what depression does to you, and the stigma around it can be negative. Ultimately, this professor never pressured me, and went on to send my information and situation to the dean of students office care consultant, which I will discuss more later.
I went on to take the incomplete in that class. This professor was extremely willing to work with me one-on-one to finish the class. We are having regular meetings, she’s just an email away with any questions (there have been quite a few!), and she even offered me her classroom as an audience for my make-up presentations. I’m blown away by her kindness, willingness to help and how much she cares about me as her student.
Magers Health and Wellness Center
While I didn’t receive counseling at the Counseling Center on campus, Magers Health and Wellness was still very helpful. I get my prescriptions filled at the pharmacy. It’s so convenient and affordable! Multiple times during my last semester, I needed a new month of psychiatric medication but had not been to a doctor to get the order in.
Just like every other story here, Missouri State helped me. I explained the situation to the pharmacy each time, and each time a doctor reviewed my case to give me a month of medicine to hold me over. Without it, I would have become extremely sick and who knows where my mental health would have gone. A pharmacist told me that they’ll do whatever it takes to get me my medicine. Once again, I was met with help when I needed it.
The dean of students office
Like I mentioned earlier, my professor reached out to the dean of students office about my situation. I received an email from the care consultant in that office, whose job is to provide support to students with personal or health issues. I set up a meeting, and at first I thought I would just assure them I’m fine and move on.
I was so mentally unhealthy that day and I missed our meeting, just like most everything else at this point, because the only thing that felt possible was going home. The office reached out to reschedule and I did, knowing a real conversation needed to be had.
The care consultant and I discussed how I can get better. She offered to reach out to my professors and share with them that I was struggling with health issues and to expect my absence. This was incredibly helpful, and took the task out of my hands. (Once again, my professors responded to her kindly.)
She recommended the Learning Diagnostic Clinic and told me how to apply for accommodations unique to my situation. Lastly, with the care consultant, I formed my academic plan: I decided to stop pushing myself to pass classes I knew were too far gone.
While surprising, it was realistic and I let my mind relax and focus on healing. School will come again in January. The dean of students office supported me and helped push me forward.
I know the dean of students office can sound so scary. A lot of students associate it with getting in trouble, but it is beyond that.
Their job is to make sure students are accomplishing goals in and out of the classroom, and they do so by handling reports of various types, including a wellness report in my case. I’m thankful my professor sent them my information and I was able to be supported by this office. I left feeling more comfortable with and aware of my options.
Office of the registrar
This one is less of a “resource” in the traditional sense, and more of a helpful tip!
There are deadlines throughout the semester for availability to drop a class, and how much refund you’ll receive after dropping. Last semester, I had missed all available class periods in my lab before I would fail with a “non-attendance” grade. One morning before class, with every part of me, I was stuck in bed. I went online and saw that it was the last day to drop a class with “W” grade.
I did so, leaving my transcript with a much better mark. My tip is to always be aware of drop deadlines! If you aren’t sure, check. They are usually included in class syllabi and are online at missouristate.edu and in Add/Drop Classes on My Missouri State.
My academic advisor
My mind was made up about failing, incomplete grades, etc. by the time I met with my academic advisor. (Pro tip: do it sooner! You can meet with your advisor anytime, not just for registration!) I told him the issues I’d been facing and my plan to accept “failure”, as well take a light semester in the spring. I went into the appointment worried he would judge me and my mental illness, tell me I should be working harder, and put academics first. Of course, he wouldn’t be in this article if that happened.
He told me I had his full support, and assured me I was making the right choice. He told me to reach out with anything he could possibly help me with. He asked how I was doing in other areas of life, at work, at home, etc. My academic advisor is in this list because he supported me in the moment, extended the support, and helped me realistically.
Of course, major depression affected my performance at work as well as school. I work on-campus, and it’s a job I really love and made it to most of the time. One day in particular, though, was a very bad day. I’ll spare you the ugly details, but it included a lot of crying and an urgent doctor’s appointment; the only available appointment was during my shift. My mom called my boss to let him know I couldn’t make it in.
My boss knew no details of what I was going through, but knew there was something. He frequently asked me if I was doing okay and offered his help with anything he could. I was assured at work that I was supported in whatever I needed to do, and that was a huge relief.
As you can tell, my boss was one of many university personnel that offered me support, an extra hand and more.
One of my favorite things about Missouri State is how you will find kindness in our students and faculty all across campus, no matter the department, no matter how close you are to the person, no matter the situation.
In the past, I worked for a different office on campus where I had the best supervisors. I left this position when I began struggling with depression in spring 2019. I was met with the same kindness, many hugs, offers for help and I was told how brave I am.
My on-campus supervisors have been the kindest people to work with, have always treated me like family, and are a part of why Missouri State is “home.”
Last semester, I served as the live entertainment chair for Student Activities Council (SAC).
(Oh, and you can buy your T-Pain tickets at any MSU box office!)
I’ve had a passion for SAC since I joined freshman year and being live entertainment chair was one of my favorite experiences ever. But I was planning to take a light semester in the spring. This jeopardized my role on SAC’s executive board. To remain on the board, I had to be a full-time student. I have never felt so conflicted, and thought about it for a long time, but ultimately I knew I had to walk away from SAC.
Through meetings with the SAC advisor, I made this decision and more. The advisor, who I consider a very good friend of mine beyond being a supervisor, talked to me about classes, shared her personal experiences with the subjects and being a student.
It was with her I decided to fail rather than take incompletes, and re-take one of those classes right away because it’s hard to retain the subject. Her guidance was so helpful to me. I discussed my fears about leaving my co-chair behind with all the live entertainment work and I was again assured that everything will be okay.
I’m still always welcomed in the SAC office where the executive board expresses how much they miss me and tell me how proud of me they are. I found my best friends and a support system through being involved on-campus, even when it meant walking away.
Yes, even financial aid helped me out! I was awarded the Board of Governors scholarship at Missouri State, which is a 4-year renewable scholarship. Taking one semester part-time would interrupt that.
I reached out to financial aid asking if I could “pause” my scholarship. I was directed to send an email to the scholarship committee, explaining my situation and requesting a hold on my scholarship. Quickly and painlessly, I was granted a hold so that I can continue school at a later time.
Learning Diagnostic Clinic
Lastly, the Learning Diagnostic Clinic was recommended to me through my discussion with the dean of students office. I was told I can request specific accommodations for my struggles, not just what’s on the list online. I’m currently in the process of receiving clearance for academic accommodations specific to my illness and I’ll feel much better knowing I have that to fall back on if I ever need it again.
How to get help
Below, I have attached contact information to all the resources listed. And of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Missouri State has many resources for help in all areas of life. I was met with people who care about me at every stop along my journey through fall 2019.
I’m in a much better place now through therapy and medication (everyone needs different treatment!). I learned a lot about myself and the world through my struggles, and I look forward to sharing my story with others.
I want to promote mental healthcare and show people it’s okay to get help. If you are struggling with a mental illness, please reach out to those who can help you. There is nothing braver than asking for help.
You are not alone. You can and will get better. You can and will persevere. You and your struggles are valid. Failing a class is not the end of the world. There is no timeline to follow. Your health is more important than anything else. And, lastly, at Missouri State, you won’t be met with hesitation or judgement, only kindness, which is the most powerful tool I can think of.
- Check your class syllabus for professor contact information.
- Dean of students office: 417-836-5527
- Office of the registrar: 417-836-5520
- Office of financial aid: 417-836-5262
- Magers Health and Wellness Center: 417-836-4000
- Counseling Center: 417-836-5116
- Learning Diagnostics Clinic: 417-836-4787