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Part of a special feature celebrating the success of Memorial's graduates. This feature coincides with spring convocation 2017.

By Kelly Foss

Chelsea Bishop’s first few years at Memorial were tough ones.

The St. John’s resident had been fascinated with animals since she was a little girl and was certain a biology degree was for her. But she struggled with classes and her grades were slipping.

“I knew I was “off” before I came to Memorial, but I never really understood, even until recently, about my depression and anxiety,” she said. “I thought I was just awkward and lazy. There were days, weeks even, when I just couldn’t get out of bed, much less crack a book.

“When I did go to class I would walk into a room of 300 people and be paralyzed, it was so overwhelming. I felt completely isolated and alone, surrounded by people I thought were happy and successful. They were doing great in their classes, making friends and having relationships, while I felt like a loser in every aspect of my life.”

Reaching out

Thankfully, Ms. Bishop eventually reached out for help. With the support of her family, she began visiting Memorial’s Student Wellness and Counselling Centre. They helped her understand what she was going through. She took that knowledge to her doctor and was prescribed medication, which also helped.

“As much as your family and friends want to be there for you, they really don’t know how to help.” — Chelsea Bishop

“The centre has certain times where you can drop in without an appointment and whoever is available can talk to you, and it’s all free,” she said. “That’s so amazing! Some people are put off by the idea of talking to a stranger about their personal problems, but the counsellors aren’t there to judge. They just listen, and you need that. Because as much as your family and friends want to be there for you, they really don’t know how to help.”

Small victories

Ms. Bishop has also come to realize that there are likely many other students in a similar position—some who, like her, have found help and others who may still be struggling. That’s part of the reason why she felt it was so important to speak out, to let them know they aren’t alone and that help is available.

“I thought about how difficult it can be for people with a mental illness to get through university,” she said. “It’s a stressful environment and you are trying to do your best. But some days, just getting up in the morning, getting dressed and coming here is a small victory.”

Now in her fifth year, she is enjoying the smaller, higher level courses. She talks to classmates and asks questions, something she would never have considered doing before. She’s also completed courses at Harlow Campus and is considering graduate school in Europe.

Brighter days

“I wish I had gotten help sooner. It does get better, even now I still have to tell myself that some days, because you have an idea that, ‘This is it. I’m going to be miserable forever.’ But looking back, I can see that it has gotten better.

“I know I’m probably always going to have bad days, but as long as there are good days weaved in there as well, I’m okay with that. Because there was a time when they were all bad.”

The Student Wellness and Counselling Centre can be found on the fourth and fifth floors of the University Centre and is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  Through personal and group counselling, family medicine and psychiatric consultation, services, professional staff and faculty can help students develop their own unique resources. Most students make use of the daily walk-in clinics for first appointments, but scheduled appointments can also be made in person or by telephone at 864-8874.

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