Name: Mary Gao
School: New York University
Major: Business and political economy
Fav thing about your campus: there’s never a dull moment in Greenwhich village
Dream Job: CEO of a social venture
What is your connection to mental illness?
I was educated about mental illness, but to an extent I used to believe it was something an arms length away from me; I believed it existed, but that it would never touch my life personally. That illusion has been shattered over the past few years. I’ve watched the lives of people closest to me torn apart due to extreme anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and the list goes on. I now understand how someone can look healthy but be suffering to the point where everyday actions are impossible. It’s crippling, and it’s unfair. I think compassion and empathy are the most important traits that we have, and to raise awareness about mental illness is to lend a kind and open heart to something that truly hurts so many.
How do you deal with stress from school?
My mental and physical health is always my first priority. It’s simply too hard to deal with the stresses of school if you are lacking sleep, or you are unhealthy. Ensuring that I sleep enough hours each night, exercise and stay fit, and taking time off whenever needed is the foundation of my life. We are pushed and pulled by a lot of external pressures so I think it’s vital to be able to find a sort of inner peace. Take the time to be silent, be thoughtful, and check in with yourself frequently.
What does your campus do to help students' mental health?
On campus, there are many resources for mental health. To begin with, there’s an entire department dedicated to wellness (I work there!). They host fun events, educational talks, and have lots of resources. In addition, there’s multiple types of counseling, for example weekly group counseling or individual counseling with psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, etc. that are of different rationalities, races, and genders with a range of specialties. And all of this is for free. There is also a club dedicated to mental health called Active Minds but beyond that, almost every club attempts to keep wellness in mind as good practice.
Do you have any school year self care tips to share with other students?
* Seek silence, it breeds reflection
* Don’t be afraid to drop everything and leave it if you need to for a while
* Find good people
* Don’t skimp on sleep
* Always remember that you are beautiful, you are capable, and you are worthy of love