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Graduation poignant for student with mental illness

by: MUN

Part of an ongoing special successful student feature in the lead up to spring convocation 2013.

Melissa Neubauer is one of the many university students who struggle to succeed while living with a mental illness.

Ms. Neubauer graduated with a bachelor of education (primary/elementary) and a bachelor of science, majoring in environmental science-biology and minoring in geography, at Grenfell Campus’s convocation ceremony on Friday, May 10.

She graduated despite suffering from a debilitating mental illness.

A North Vancouver native, Ms. Neubauer began studies at Memorial’s west coast campus in 2007. Throughout high school, she struggled with what she now knows to be episodes of depression and was anxious to move away from home as an escape. While studying at Grenfell, the symptoms of her mental illness escalated. Through a stressful series of doctor appointments, medical tests, different prescriptions and misdiagnoses, Ms. Neubauer’s Corner Brook physician diagnosed her with dysthymia, characterized by constant low periods with episodes of double depression, in which depression occurs during the episodes of dysthymia. She is also dealing with a general anxiety disorder which affects her ability to concentrate and to be motivated to complete tasks.

“A few professors have been wonderfully supportive throughout my degree and very understanding when it came to not being able to complete work on time or being taken off school or hospitalized,” she said. “Being at Grenfell for six years now, I feel comfortable with most of the staff and have several people that I can go to if I need anything.”

Ms. Neubauer still continues to deal with the challenges presented by mental illness. Graduation is an accomplishment she wasn’t sure was always in her reach and it hasn’t been easy. Students with mental health issues need to talk about their health and build a solid support system, she says.

“Too often people with mental health issues don’t want to bring them up because of the negative stigma attached but I’ve found that most people appreciate knowing what is going on,” she said.  “I’ve lost a lot of friends because I’ve leaned on them too much so having a professional support system is important.”

It is also important to work with the university’s disabilities support services, and find physicians and mental health professionals you trust, she adds.

Ms. Neubauer celebrated her graduation with her family, and is looking forward to beginning her career as an educator here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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