Stress can really affect students. Graphic by Danielle Glumsic

Mental health is just as important as physical health

We’ve all had to call in sick before, or bring a note to a professor as physical evidence that you were ill. But sometimes being mentally ill or just worn out is legitimate excuse, and needs to be treated as such. I know recently, I’ve really needed a mental break. But where’s the sympathy for those whose illnesses aren’t visible to the naked eye?

I recently visited a psychiatrist to discuss the fact that I’ve had panic attacks rather frequently over the summer. He nodded and agreed that you never forget panic attacks, because although they aren’t nearly as dangerous, it’s a lot like having a heart attack. They leave you physically and mentally exhausted. If you have a panic attack early in the day, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to recover and continue your day as if nothing happened, a lot like a heart attack.

Stress can really affect students. Graphic by Danielle Glumsic
Stress can really affect students. Graphic by Danielle Glumsic

Unfortunately though, most of the time a panic attack isn’t going to be a valid excuse for work as a heart attack would be. I recently had a very severe panic attack while I was at work. My boss had to take me to the side and bring me cold water as I slowly calmed down. He even asked if I needed to call someone or if I wanted to go home. Somehow, I fought through it and finished the work I needed to do, but he quickly sent me home. Almost as soon as I got home, I was passed out in my bed from being so exhausted.

Panic attacks can be very severe. I realize that heart attacks are very severe and I’m not downplaying them at all; however, I feel the need to emphasize that panic attacks should be taken more seriously. Most of the time it’s not so simple as “you need to calm down.” My most severe panic attack lasted about an hour and I was completely inconsolable. All you can really do is breathe, drink water and wait for it to go away.

In my experience, when I’m mentally off or an having a panic attack, being productive is pretty much impossible. Much like when you have the flu, all you want to do is lay in bed and wait until you feel better. A lot of times it’s better to make yourself get up and be productive to get your mind off of things, but it can be extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible.

So why do so many employers or teachers not accept “mental health days” as viable excuses? I suppose many people don’t believe what they can’t see. It’s a lot easier to see a runny nose or sore throat. Also, mental episodes aren’t really contagious, even though attitudes sometimes are. Working in a restaurant, you can’t contaminate a dish with anxiety like you can with germs.

It’s hard being one of these people who truly has a hard time getting out of my mental “funks”. It’s upsetting that mental health days aren’t viable excuses, all because you can’t go to MedExpress and get a note confirming you’re simply having an off day. Mental health needs to be treated sensitively. In my opinion, mental health can be even more important than physical health because a lot of times, your mental health affects how you feel physically and vice versa.