OPINION: Students should guard their mental health


Illustration by Mattheau Faught/The Et Cetera


In the weeks since U.S. gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the team competition and four individual events at the Tokyo Olympics, words like “mental health” and “burnout” have made headlines and are still circulating on social media.

Even though a lot of those conversations have to do with the athletic world, I submit that burnout is something that can happen to anyone, not just athletes. As students we need to be honest with ourselves about our mental well-being too. 

I include myself in that. 

Besides taking classes, I am a wife and a mother with a home to maintain, bills to pay and an energetic 7-year-old daughter who wants me to play with her.

After three years of studying to get my associate degree, half of that time during the pandemic, while still trying to maintain family and work responsibilities, I admit I am feeling pretty burned out.

My own mother’s health has been declining over the past several months. After contracting COVID-19 and a urinary tract infection at the end of January, she ended up in a skilled nursing facility where contact with her is limited due to COVID-19 protocols.

The academic pressure has been intense for me too. I graduated from high school with a 4.0 grade point average, and I desperately wanted to do the same in college. 

I was able to keep that up until my statistical analysis math class in June. Due to the fast pace of the 4-week course I wasn’t able to complete all my assignments. I still managed to get a B, but the late nights and stress of constant deadlines always had me on edge. 

I’ve been the editor in chief of The Et Cetera for the past two semesters, but the isolation of working remotely took a toll on my mental health. I had a hard time getting used to only seeing my coworkers over the screen and communicating with them virtually. 

I have spent a lot of time over the last few months trying to convince myself that I’m fine and that I would be as good as new after a few weeks off. My plan was to transfer to the University of Texas at Arlington this fall to start working on my bachelor’s degree. 

But after a couple episodes of extreme fatigue and depression that lasted for several days, I knew my plan wasn’t going to work. There was no way I could dive headfirst into something new. The excitement that I initially felt about starting a new chapter in my life turned to dread, and the stress started to affect every area of my life. 

Like Biles, I had to opt out of attending UTA this semester for my mental and physical health. 

Some of Biles’ critics accused her of quitting, but she didn’t quit. She just dropped out of events she knew posed a threat to her wellbeing and kept practicing in a safe space. When she knew the time was right, she came back into competition and won. 

Biles wasn’t a quitter. She just changed her strategy to fit what was going on in her life at that moment. 

When we get overwhelmed and start feeling burned out, changing our strategy can help a lot. 

For me, my new strategy is staying at Dallas College a while longer and taking a few classes that will transfer into my degree plan at UTA. 

I’m not quitting, but I’m doing what I need to do to make life manageable for me right now. 

Harriet Ramos is the editor in chief and a journalism major.