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Stop stigmatizing gap years | The Triangle

Stop stigmatizing gap years

PublicDomain: Pixabay
Public Domain: Pixabay

Taking a gap year to focus on getting to a better place mentally is choosing to invest in ourselves, rather than slowly disintegrating.

But this concept is widely stigmatized.

It seems that even when we pull through and make a decision about our own well-being when no one else is there to help, the negative reception finds a way to come back and haunt us, as the idea of taking a gap year is deemed to be “foolish” and “lazy”.

The concept of a gap year is just one method that many people use to get back to a better place in their lives. Taking a year off for mental health can do wonders, despite the ignominy often associated with the idea.

College is a risky period in a person’s life; it’s a place teeming with stress, overwhelmed students, lack of sleep, caffeine and in certain cases, depression. Mental illness is a growing crisis and the epidemic continues to progress as the stigmatization grows stronger. The issues become more severe as the feeling of hopelessness and loneliness sets in, making the symptoms very prominent during college years.

Transitioning from high school to college is a feat in and of itself. Moving away from home, taking on new levels of work, staying up endless nights attempting to study something that seems impossible to grasp, and being pressured to focus on a future that you can’t even comprehend yet. This can all break a person and many times, the rest of the world doesn’t realize that.

Gap years give students the chance to do a psychological cleanse and regain a happier state of being by focusing on themselves and their own well-being.

As unfortunate as it is to admit, mental illness still remains a taboo within society and its stigmatization continues to occur as those who suffer continue to maintain their silence. Problems within our body seem to be a valid reason to be exempt or excused from certain classes, yet if it’s a problem within our brain, we are faced with disregard.

No consideration is given because that’s simply a “you problem.” Something that affects our emotional, physical and social well-being and can inhibit us from leading a normal life — as our behavior, thinking and mood are altered — seems like something that should also be thought of as detrimental to a person’s health.

The truth has been and continues to be that our progress as a society in accepting the verity behind mental illness is at a standstill. The repercussions of this are felt through those who suffer and deteriorate internally, simply out of fear that their panic attacks, anxiety and depression will be degraded to an episode — leaving them feeling more alone than they felt before.

Within cases where an individual coping with mental illness makes a drastic decision for their own betterment by themselves, they seem to be the only ones who truly support it.

College forces us to neglect our human needs, such as eating and sleeping, and aims our attention towards our future goals that may seem unattainable at times as the work just continues to pile up. By taking a year off to alleviate and relieve ourselves of the stress and anxiety experienced during high school, an individual can go into college feeling more prepared and ready to tackle the work as they are at a better, happier place.

If we feel overwhelmed and depressed right out of high school and transition into college right away without being content with ourselves, the stress and mental trauma builds on top of each other until the ultimate breaking point.

The American Gap Association says that 92 percent of students who take a gap year did so to increase their skills and also to grow as a person and become satisfied with the person that they are. Not only is a student more motivated to succeed by taking time off, but they also found balance within their lives in which they were able to figure out just how they can effectively function without falling apart.

Gap years also increase academic performance within college because once you get that time to focus on yourself, you enter college with the same mindset rather than focusing on those around you. If travelling is part of your gap year, it can bring a peace of mind and satisfaction. Skills can be mastered and passions can be discovered.

Having time to reflect, refocus and regain control is what a gap year can offer.

Society believes it is just a way to continue being lazy, to give up, to be a failure and to stop trying. Believing any of those reasons adds fuel to the fire, promoting the degradation of mental illness. By shaming mental illness and associating it with laziness and failure, another person has just backed away from talking to anyone or considering their well-being.

My question has been the same from the very beginning, why is it okay to rest and take time off of work or school to let a physical injury heal, but a mental injury is irrelevant and an excuse? The answer is simply that it isn’t okay.

Gap years are giving people the opportunity to take the time off that they deserve. It doesn’t make an individual lazy or a failure. It means they put their well-being and sanity first. It should not be stigmatized; it should be celebrated.

If society accepts the fact that a break is deserved, whether that be between high school to college or even during college, the mindset will contribute to a healthier and happier community.