Dealing with Mental Illness as a Smith Business Student

By February 25, 2019 No Comments

Undergraduate student Sadia Alao, class of 2020, marketing and theater major, writes about coping with her depression while seeking a business degree and how you can too


As I write this, I note the fact that it has taken myself over a week and a half to muster up the motivation to draft this article. Dealing with clinical depression while not only attending a flagship university, but also a highly advanced and rigorous business school, has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life.

From having to meet with a group to conceptualize a business plan to studying for Economics, Marketing, and IS midterms all within days of each other, anyone who suffers from mental illness knows that on some days, even showering can be a task.

I was ashamed and embarrassed. Everyone in Smith looked so put together and well ordered, with their nice suits and big smiles.  I thought I was the only one who was a wreck inside. It took the courage within myself to admit that I needed help, and to then seek it. It took even more understanding to realize the people who seemed the happiest can be going through the exact same thing. They just wear it better. According to a recent survey conducted by the American College Health Association, 39% of students surveyed reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function.”

The number one thing when dealing with mental illness while attending a top university is to know 100%, that above all else, your mental health is more important than any grade or any GPA. The second is knowing that it is okay to seek help, whether it’s with a therapist or trusted friend; it’s not weak and you will not be seen as a burden. Therapy does not have to be a weekly commitment and you don’t have to be in crisis mode to seek help.

Not many know this, but UMD not only has counseling resources at Shoemaker Building, but at the School of Public Health, as well. There are also many outside resources that offer therapy at little to no cost for college and grad students.

College isn’t just about adapting to eating ramen 24/7, or living on your own for the first time, it’s also about adapting to a different work and professional load, and that can be hard for a majority of us.

My name is Sadia Alao and I suffer from depression. It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s scary. But I know I’m not alone, and you aren’t either. I hope knowing this empowers you, even a tiny bit.