Campaign helps McCombs students deal with mental health struggles

Caroline Betik

McCombs School of Business is known to house some of the most talented and most competitive students on campus. However, this high-stress environment can be taxing for their mental well-being and cause them to cover up the issues they face — whether because they are too afraid to admit what they are going through or because they believe they are going through it alone.

McCombs students are working to raise awareness for the importance of good mental health with A Different Story, a campaign that aims to normalize conversation surrounding mental health within McCombs.

Finance senior Joseph Lee created A Different Story after reflecting upon his personal experience within McCombs.

“When I was a freshman, I frequently compared myself to my peers around me and felt completely inadequate because I only saw their external accomplishments,” Lee said. “I wanted to build a facade that I was successful even though I was struggling, and I kept it internalized until any small thing could set it off.”

Katy Redd, the associate director for prevention and outreach at the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said it is important to realize it is neither fair nor healthy to compare ourselves to everyone else’s success.

“Looking at your everyday up and down failure, rejection, all that stress — you are comparing that to someone’s museum of their best self. It’s curated,” Redd said. “We compare other people’s curated self with our best self. We need to realize we are only getting a little slice of the story, this isn’t their whole story.”

Lee aims to dismantle the idea that successful students have never struggled in college. He designed A Different Story to emphasize the need to talk about student anxieties by interviewing leaders and role models in McCombs about their struggles.

“The biggest thing that can help you out if you are struggling with something internally is to just talk about it with somebody,” Lee said. “I never really talked to anyone about my struggles, and I didn’t really trust anyone to keep quiet about it. But talking to others is the most helpful thing we can do. It’s honestly incredible how much a half-hour conversation can make you feel less burdened.”

Marketing senior Hali Medina, president of the Texas American Marketing Association, was among those interviewed for the campaign. Medina said she too struggled with anxiety and stress being a student in McCombs, but eventually she realized she had to be kinder to herself and open up to someone.

“I started talking to people about my struggles — loved ones and others outside of friends and family. I scheduled time to practice self-care by reading a good book or taking a walk around campus,” Medina said. “I have always had a ‘work hard always’ mindset, but there are so many other things in life that matter. Find the things that bring you happiness and peace because being genuinely happy with the life that you’re living is all that matters.”

Lee said he wanted to make sure students know they deserve a break and should take time to care for themselves throughout the school year in order to de-stress and relax.

“I love the moments when it’s just me and my music, drawing buildings or running along the lake. It calms my mind, helps me think, and fights my insecurities,” Lee said. “It makes me feel comfortable with not being the most talkative, outgoing person. Being comfortable with myself helped me achieve success.”