Mental health diagnosis gives chance to thrive in college | News

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Looking back on his undergraduate experience at UCalgary, John Gabriel Cabayao says there’s one thing he wishes he could change: the timing of his mental health diagnosis.

“I wish I had been diagnosed sooner,” says Cabayao, BA’19, BSc’19, who learned in 2019 that he had bipolar II disorder after struggling for five years with a misdiagnosis of depression. “I wish I could go back to my first year of undergrad and be like, ‘You should be on meds and you should be in support groups.'”

College can be overwhelming for many students. Cabayao describes her first two years of post-secondary education as humbling.

“I had a 2.46 GPA, I struggled academically, and I was overwhelmed by friends and my own coming out story and had to deal with a lot in my life,” says -he. “My sophomore year, I was put on academic probation for about a semester because he got to such a low level.”

Cabayao says family and cultural pressures played a big role in his delay in seeking help, adding that he was terrified of trying drugs that could improve his mental health.

University resources, a lifeline

“In Filipino culture, depression is often seen as a weakness. It’s all in your head — only weak people let their emotions and sadness control them,” he says, adding that Filipino immigrant children are often reminded of the sacrifices their parents made to come to Canada.

Eventually realizing that he risked derailing his future goals, Cabayao found a lifeline in the resources offered by the university.

“I almost failed college, and what saved me from that moment was going to Student Welfare Services and contacting someone who could help me,” says -he. “I even went to the Student Success Center to strategize about not getting kicked out of college. It’s amazing the resources you have on campus if you take the time to reach out.

These resources, along with campus peer support groups and friends, led Cabayao to graduate with honors with concurrent degrees – a BA in political science and a BSc in plant biology – despite her struggles.

Now working towards his masters in political science and finally thriving on proper medication to treat his bipolar disorder, he can’t help but wonder how different his undergraduate experience might have been had he been able to find this relief earlier.

“I feel that I can help other students”

With that in mind, Cabayao says he is thrilled to now be able to give back to the community that has helped him.

“I was that person who needed guidance, who just needed someone to talk to and to have a non-judgmental space with my peers,” Cabayao explains. “But now that I’m in a stable position, I feel like I can support other students who may not be lucky enough to have good support groups, or who don’t may not have good access to medication, a drug plan, or access to a health plan that pays for therapy.

In her mental health advocacy work at UCalgary, Cabayao is passionate about making sure students know what resources are available to them. The graduate student sits on the Campus Mental Health Strategy Implementation Committee and serves as Vice Chair of Advocacy for the Graduate Student Association Mental Health and Wellness Subcommittee.

“Throughout the pandemic, there are students who took Zoom classes who never set foot on campus until recently,” Cabayao explains. “I feel like they missed that first year of making new friends, finding their community, and meeting people in their specialty. Worse still, they don’t know about the services available to them on campus.

The crucial message Cabayao shares is that mental health support is for everyone, not just those in crisis.

“It’s there as a lifeline and it shouldn’t be seen as a weakness or something that another person with symptoms might need,” he says. “It’s for anyone who might feel that stress or feel a crisis from time to time. It shouldn’t be something that has to be accessed at the last minute.

Support a caring and resourceful campus community

Since the launch of the Campus Mental Health Strategy in 2015, more than 2,000 faculty and staff have been trained in mental health awareness and stigma reduction programs. Over 8,000 students are reached each year through mental health education and training. As students, staff and faculty return to campus and continue to battle the mental health effects of COVID-19, maintaining a caring and resourceful campus community has never been better. important.

Last April, UCalgary launched the new Campus Mental Health Impact Fund. This fund will provide invaluable support to various initiatives in key priority areas of the Campus Mental Health Strategy. Donate now for eThe opportunity to double the impact of your donations during the Giving Day 2022 campaign.

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