Over the past year, the pandemic has posed serious health risks beyond physical well-being. In January, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, up from one in ten adults in January 2019, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Mandi Nelson, a junior advertising/public relations student and UCF social media ambassador, recently shared her perspective on the importance of mental health during this time.

“We are all complex human beings with stories, and often times with those stories come with challenges that we hold in and they build up over time because we don’t want to burden others,” she says. “But talking about your struggles is healthy and shouldn’t be stigmatized.”

As an advocate for mental health, Nelson’s awareness on the topic developed in high school after the sports fan saw NBA player Kevin Love and NFL player Hayden Hurst share their personal struggles. After exploring her own mental wellness journey for a while, Nelson decided to start using UCF’s Counseling and Psychological Services in November 2019 to get some additional support. Throughout the pandemic, she’s continued to work with CAPS through virtual telehealth appointments, and the organization has returned to limited in-person services this semester.

“Focusing on my mental health has taught me to have more empathy for others and patience with myself,” Nelson says. In the video above, she discusses what the process of becoming involved with CAPS was like for her and how other students can get help.

For students who don’t feel they’re ready to go to CAPS or are looking for peers to connect with, Nelson suggests becoming involved with Active Minds. The UCF chapter is part of a national organization that promotes mental health awareness and aims to change the conversation around the topic.

One piece of advice, Nelson says everyone can benefit from is finding self-care practices that work for you. To learn more about what her practices are and how she found them, watch the video.

To learn more about CAPS, visit caps.sdes.ucf.edu. CAPS staff can be reached directly via phone Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 407-823-2811 (press 5 for after-hours support).