In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we decided to share a blog about the common stigma associated with mental health issues as a business student.
I struggle with depression.
I wasn’t always like this. In my undergraduate education, I was overly-involved, driven, and so sure of what I wanted out of life. When I went out into the world and started following my dreams, I experienced happiness like you only see in movies. Eventually, circumstances in my personal life changed beyond my control, pulling me lower than I could’ve ever imagined. At that time, I decided I needed a change. I started business school trying to cope with all of these changes, while at the same time learning how to be a student again — but I couldn’t shake it off. Finally, six months into the MBA program, I decided to talk to someone about it. That is when I was diagnosed with moderate depression.
But we’re business students. Professionals. We are not known for being emotional unless we need to market to our target audience, and we definitely do not struggle with our mental health.
The truth is, depression – or any other mental health issue for that matter – doesn’t care who you are, how successful you think you are, where you’ve been, or what your hopes and dreams are. In fact, study after study shows that people who are highly intelligent – the types you would normally find in graduate school – are more likely to suffer from mental illness than the general population.
As MBA students, we all have so many demands for our time: from high-stakes coursework to balancing our families and social lives to juggling multiple jobs to compensate for the pay cut we take when deciding to become full-time students again. And it is not as though life stops when you are a student – you get married, you have kids, you might unfortunately lose family members, and inevitably you miss out on some pretty important life events. It can be numbingly isolating at times, especially when you feel as though there is no one who can empathize. Nonetheless, as a group, we still want to have it all, and we are immersed in a competitive environment where you feel like you constantly have to prove that you are smart and capable enough to belong. Trying to balance all of these pressures while still being expected to maintain a level of professionalism can make us easy targets for mental health disorders.
To a certain degree, I was expecting to be diagnosed with depression when I finally sought professional help. I did not expect that anyone else in the MBA program could relate. When I mentioned to my good friend and colleague that I would be writing about mental health for the MBA blog, I was asked to write about stress or the pressure to succeed instead, as that would be more relatable to our fellow colleagues. But isn’t that precisely why we need to talk about such issues? Statistically speaking, I know I can’t be the only one to experience this, and it is important to start some kind of dialogue.
I came into business school without the personal motivation and the commitment to professional growth that the program deserved, all because my depression was crippling. It kept me from engaging fully in the classroom, not because I didn’t want to, but because when you have a mental illness it truly and honestly keeps you from being the best version of yourself that you know you can be. It also kept me from going out and getting to know all of the incredibly talented, passionate people we have in this program before it was too late.
I cannot say with certainty that there is a specific point that I was trying to get across with this post. If nothing more, I hope to acknowledge that all MBA experiences are not the same, and that we each bring our own experiences, expertise, and yes, even baggage to the table. Our acknowledgement and our ability to articulate our own weaknesses will only help to make us stronger business leaders in the future.
Thank you to the brave Crosby MBA student who took the time to write a blog about this important subject.