Peer Health Educators X IfYoureReadingThis.org
If you’re reading this, you deserve to make self-care a priority.
Mental illness has been a topic of conversation in my house for as long as I can remember. Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders have been at the forefront of my family members’ minds for years. Individual, group, and family therapy sessions have helped all of us cope and heal, but it is not a battle that is over and won. Going home for breaks is sometimes a struggle for me. I love my family and I recognize the privilege I have in going home to five people (and two dogs) that care about me, but I tend to notice my mental health slipping.
Hitting these lows when I’m at home is a reminder that mental health is not something that should be ignored until it’s a problem. A core principle of the Peer Health Education (PHE) program is the emphasis on mental wellness instead of illness. You deserve to make your mental health a priority at all times – not just when you’re struggling. One of my favorite PHE events is Mental Wellness Screening Day. It is a bi-annual event we host with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to provide free, fast, and anonymous screenings to see if a concern might need more attention and to learn strategies to improve mental wellness. Seeing how many students utilize these resources gives me hope that we are slowly ending the stigma and giving students a space to prioritize their mental health.
At UVa, we’re constantly surrounded by individuals that are extremely involved and accomplished. This can be motivating and inspiring, but it can also be detrimental when we feel like we can never slow down or take a break. Know that you deserve to take time for self-care, in whatever form it takes. For some, it means spending a whole day in bed journaling or watching Netflix, for others, it’s being active or spending time with close friends. The friends I have made through Peer Health Education are some of the closest ones I’ve ever had. We can talk about anything and everything, laugh together, and cry together. Most importantly, they are people who value and support my mental wellness. It is an organization where, “I need to take time for myself,” or, “I’m having a bad mental health day,” is explanation enough. Surrounding yourself with people who remind you to take time for self-care and that value your mental wellness is so unbelievably important.
In order to be my best self for the people I love, I know I have to make my own mental health a priority. When my mental health starts slipping, I am unable to provide the care and support that my friends and family deserve. Prioritizing my own mental wellness allows me to be a better friend, partner, sibling, and daughter. It is only when we learn how to be kind, forgiving, and patient with ourselves that we can give the same to others.
As the poet Beau Taplin says,
“Self-love is an ocean and your heart is a vessel. Make it full, and any excess will spill over into the lives of the people you hold dear. But you must come first.”
Ashley W., University of Virginia ‘20
This post is a part of a collaboration installment between IfYoureReadingThis.org and Peer Health Educators.
Our two organizations share the joint mission of creating a happier and healthier student body, and we encourage you to explore their resources and programs.
Peer Health Educators (PHEs) are a group of roughly 45 UVA students who are trained to educate their classmates about college health and wellness issues in a positive, interactive, fun, and nonjudgmental manner. Comprehensive training through a three-credit course prepares the PHEs to provide confidential patient education sessions; facilitate dynamic outreach programs; encourage physical, mental, and spiritual health; create informative awareness events; and promote community support to create a healthy culture. PHEs are trained to educate on mental wellness, nutrition, alcohol safety, and sexual health.
If you would like to request an outreach from the PHEs, go to tinyurl.com/requestanoutreach and fill out the form. If you would like to talk to a PHE in a one-on-one patient education session about any and all of the above-listed topics, either book a patient education online through healthyhoos.com or walk to the lower level of Student Health.
If you would like to learn more about the PHE program or would like to apply to become one, go to our tab in the student health website under “health and wellness” > “peer education”.