An Open Letter to the Booth Community on Mental Health

On Wednesday, April 25th, a mental health panel was held at the Booth School of Business to discuss mental health across diverse communities. The event was hosted in partnership with OUTreach, Armed Forces Group, AAMBA, HABSA, and sponsored by the Graduate Business Council.

Mental health is a topic that impacts a majority of graduate students throughout their experience. Estimates have shown that 67% of graduate students report feeling hopeless at least once annually and 54% experience depression. However, long-standing stigmas often lead to silence on the issue and make it difficult to reach out or discuss even with close friends.

Panelists discussed a variety of topics, including transitioning to civilian life after serving in the military and coming out to their friends and families as part of the LGBTQ community.

One panelist, Candice Harden, is a first-year student at Booth and the Executive Co-Chair for the African American MBA Association, as well as a Co-Chair of Christians in Business.

Below is Candice’s open letter to the Booth community about mental health.  

Dear Boothies, give yourself permission to be imperfect.

During Wednesday’s Mental Panel Health, I took a deep breath and shared my story of how stress during the recruiting season landed me in the hospital. I was so afraid of not getting an internship that I pushed myself too hard at the expense of my health. These fears were unwarranted: I received 2 internship offers but my imposter syndrome got the best of me during the recruiting season. I ignored clear signs that I was pushing my body beyond the limits as I told myself, “You’re a strong Black woman. You can do this!”  You see, it is taboo for people of color to seek mental health care. Disparities in socioeconomic conditions, access to mental health providers, and cultural biases prevent us from seeking the help we need. My hope is the self-care movement will de-stigmatize mental health in communities of color.

Why did I risk being vulnerable and exposing my weaknesses to my classmates? Because I gave myself permission to be imperfect and you should too!  I realized my fake façade was detrimental to my overall wellbeing. Stepping into the truth of my imperfections lifted a weight from me that I vowed to not take up again. I’ve also set boundaries in my life to prevent another involuntary trip to the hospital. Every Sunday I adapt the Jewish tradition of Sabbath and will not do anything school related from sun up to sun down. Sundays are my time to celebrate my faith, rest, and spend time participating in activities that revitalize my soul after the sometimes-hellish weeks of school. I set a hard stop at night to protect my sleep. Finally, my friends are my accountability buddies in ensuring I don’t push myself beyond my limits again (Shout out to my Hyde Park Crew!).  These boundaries help me live a balanced MBA life – if such a thing exists.

PS - Student Counseling Service is a 6-minute walk from Harper at 5555 S Woodlawn Ave. Need someone to walk with you? Reach out to me and I’ll walk with you ☺

Your imperfect classmate,

Candice