Manley: Life’s transitions are tough

May is Mental Health Month, and nothing can be more stressful than college, I know!

When I was in high school I remember the first advice my dad told me, “The transition from high school to college is tough.” As a kid who knew everything, I just shrugged my shoulders and went on.

I enrolled at Morehead State University as a valedictorian from my high school class with the aspirations of being a doctor. I earned a full scholarship and enrolled as a biology major and chemistry minor.

My grades that first semester were not what you would expect from a straight-A student in high school. Let’s just say it was not Dean’s List material.

After the next few semesters my grades kept dropping, I lost my scholarship and I was depressed.

I studied. I worked. I did not party. And nothing is more depressing than failing at something you really tried at. 

Maybe my dad was right: The transition from high school to college was tough.

The things I did to be successful in high school didn’t work in college. It was a different world, different environment, different everything!

I was not proud of failing. I wanted to follow through on my plans. I wanted to be a doctor for my dad. I didn’t want anyone to notice the struggle. I wanted to try and solve the problem myself and hide my true feelings.

But keeping all of these issues bottled up inside was not good. I knew something wasn’t working, so I chose to seek advice.

The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was go back and talking to my dad about failing.

He was going to be so disappointed.

When I was home for the weekend — where I ate well and had laundry done — I told him about my issues. He understood and said that it was OK. 

“What have you have been successful at in the past, and what subject do you enjoy?” He asked. “Change your major to that.”

I changed my major to math and the rest is history.

Looking back on those words of wisdom from my dad, I think he was trying to prepare me for the rough transition he faced when he went to college. Life had brought him to a place of depression and other mental illnesses. He knew from experience.

We like to think all of the problems we face today are new, but it seems like each generation has faced similar issues.

I’m fortunate I’m able to use all of these experiences in my life when working with the next generation of students at Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC).

I see the same issues of tough transitions, failure, family and work life balance, and depression.

Transitions are not easy and can really strain your mental health, especially for college students.

According to a 2012 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) entitled “College Students Speak: A Survey Report on Mental Health,” one person said, “It is extremely difficult for students to come out and talk about mental health problems and they may not want to tell you this is why they are falling behind, missing class, seeming disengaged, etc. Please be sensitive and understand mental health problems are ‘real’ problems. Encourage them to find help through the health center and academic advising.”

Speak and open up about tough things in life no matter who you are.

Be open to learning about yourself because it is the best way to overcome life’s obstacles.

We all are unique and respond in different ways, and the challenges in this life never stop.

At BCTC, we are here to help students succeed no matter what. Our counseling center will meet with students and help them navigate any personal, career, family or college issue.

We also have a local chapter of NAMI in Winchester that offers support to anyone with mental illness. Contact Brenda Harrington at bebe1@bellsouth.net or 749-3702 for more information.

After college, I applied to graduate school at the University of Kentucky, and thought I had it all figured out until I heard the second best advice from my dad, “The transition from college to graduate school is tough!”

 

Bruce Manley is director of the Bluegrass Community and Technical College Winchester-Clark County campus.