Investing in Mental Health in High School Can Shape Your College Experience

Zoe Tait
Zoe Tait

How can you make the transition from high school to college easier?

Simple: focus on mental health. Understand what you need to succeed both academically and in taking care of yourself. Prioritize finding mentors, professors, and friends to aid the transition. 

Okay, maybe it isn’t that simple, but learning about your mental health, understanding your needs, and having mentors to support you can definitely aid in the transition.

I began to invest in my own mental health at the beginning of my junior year in high school. As I was becoming more interested in focusing on my mental health and learning more about what causes various mental health illnesses, I discovered Active Minds at my high school. I didn’t know much about Active Minds, but I knew I was interested. I decided to attend a meeting to learn more about how I could support my own and others’ mental health. What I didn’t know at the time was that this involvement would continue throughout my high school career. I also didn’t know I would eventually hold the position of president of the Active Minds Chapter at the John Cooper School during my senior year of high school, and that I would now, in my second year of college, be the president of the Active Minds chapter at the University of California, San Diego. All because of one decision I made to simply learn more about mental health.

When I first joined Active Minds,  I didn’t know much about mental health. My knowledge regarding the implementation of mental health-related programs and events for high school students was even more limited. So, as I continued as a member and eventually entered leadership roles with Active Minds, having someone to help lead me was crucial. The guidance that came from my high school counselor Dr. Diego Estrada at the John Cooper School was invaluable to me during my first few years with Active Minds. It allowed me to understand more about not only mental health concepts in general but how I could learn to decrease the stigma behind mental health across my community. 

With guidance from Dr. Estrada, I was able to organize events such as World Suicide Prevention Day, National Day without Stigma, World Kindness Day, and Stress Less Week. I know that these events had impacts on countless numbers of my peers and that alone makes all the difference in realizing the importance of mental health communities and supportive leadership.

As a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to attend the Active Minds National Conference and gain important knowledge on different mental health topics and see how Active Minds chapters from various universities and high schools were promoting mental health advocacy. This is where I realized how truly important my experiences in Active Minds were, which influenced my choice to again join a chapter in college. Active Minds had become a home for me and I knew it would be best for me and my mental health to seek out that community again, no matter where I ended up for college.

When I began my first year of college at the University of California, San Diego during 2020, the height of the pandemic, I was both hopeful and fearful. After starting classes, my next priority was clear: I found the Active Minds chapter at UCSD and signed up. I applied for a position as a social media intern and was accepted. Joining this chapter gave me a greater sense of community and purpose on campus amid a pandemic. I had new friends, responsibilities that I enjoyed, and I truly felt like I was making a difference. Throughout my short time so far at UCSD, I have been able to consistently rely on my fellow members of Active Minds as we continue to strive to have an impact on our community, better understand and share the importance of mental health, and support each other throughout our college careers.

Without my experience in learning how to prioritize mental health and lean on the support of my Active Minds community and mentors, the transition to college would not have been nearly as smooth for me as it was. So, maybe the answer is really that simple. You can make the transition from high school to college through mental health. Through focusing on your mental health, getting involved in conversations about mental health, and relying on those around you who can uplift and advise you, you can conquer challenges that you didn’t think were possible.