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The GW Hatchet

AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Perspective: Asking for help can make all the difference

If you ever need anything, you can ask for help. I remember hearing that phrase in assemblies and on flyers all throughout elementary, middle and high school. I grew accustomed to hearing, but never truly believing, that there was always someone who could help.

Something about being told to reach out for help always felt impersonal and insincere. When I would hear teachers or psychologists say this, I would think: There’s no way these people want to hear strangers complain about their lives and their problems. Why would a stranger be willing to help me out with my struggles and challenges?

When I came to GW in the fall of 2022, I believed I didn’t need to reach out to anyone. I had never done so before, and I certainly wouldn’t change that now. But it was also my first year in college, and I was thousands of miles away from home, dealing with my mother’s death on top of financial problems.

My professors insisted they were available to help me or willing to lend an ear, but I didn’t listen to them and let myself wallow in my academic problems. I would see the phone number for the school’s psychological resources at the end of emails and ignore it, even though I was having a difficult time dealing with my grief.

The idea of reaching out to my professors or the school’s mental health resources was humiliating. Asking for help felt like an admission that I was not able to deal with what was on my plate. And I was still under the impression that no one would understand my situation or what I was going through.

I wasn’t convinced I needed to reach out to anyone until it became unbearable. So, when I reached out for financial, academic and mental help, it surprised me how willing everyone was to assist me.

I remember scouring the emails the University sends for mentions of financial assistance to students. I was struggling to pay off my tuition and couldn’t rely on my family to help pay it off. For some people, $2,000 to $5,000 might not be a lot of money. For my family, it was a huge sum. I finally found and applied for the Cokie and Steve Roberts SMPA Student Support Fund, hoping for the best.

Applying for the fund led to assistance in almost every way I needed. The people who had read my application asked my residence hall community coordinator to ask me if I needed to talk to anyone or wanted to make use of the school’s mental health resources. I was surprised — I did need to talk to someone. I was getting only a couple of hours of sleep each night, I felt emotional all the time, I had very little motivation and my mind was always on my mom.

All it took was one application to connect me with an adult with whom I could talk about the struggles I was facing. When the University reached out, I finally felt like I wasn’t alone.

Asking for help could bring relief after all. I reached out to one of my professors whose math class I was struggling in. Not only did he understand, but he seemed to know exactly what I needed. From adjusting deadlines to attending office hours, he made sure I didn’t fall behind. Knowing that someone was checking up on me gave me the reassurance I needed to get through a tumultuous time in my life.

Eventually, I gathered up the courage to take care of myself, too. I showed up unannounced to speak to one of the school’s psychologists. While it didn’t solve every problem in my life, it helped me to talk things out with someone who could listen.

While it was still difficult, the following semester became slightly easier. I had regular appointments with a psychologist, felt more comfortable reaching out to professors and received financial help, which was a huge stress reliever for me. I still remember calling my best friend midday, crying as I told him that my biggest worry that kept me up at night was long gone.

In the fall, I found myself in a similar situation again. I was struggling a bit with my academics and had even more financial distress than prior semesters. I was still a bit skeptical to reach out for help again. Yet I did.

I realized a direct conversation with one of my professors could silence most of my worries. And I got to scream with joy on my way to class as I checked my email and realized everything was going to be okay financially: I was receiving the fund’s help for another semester. When someone from the board of the Cokie and Steve Roberts fund reached out to speak with me in person about my financial situation, they showed genuine concern for how they could help me in my upcoming semesters.

Like me, many people can find asking for help difficult and daunting. I think we sometimes believe that asking for help will get us nowhere or that people simply do not have our best interests at heart. So we try to deal with everything by ourselves.

However, during my time at GW, I’ve learned that asking for help is not only human, it’s a necessity: We can’t possibly deal with everything by ourselves. All we have to do is realize we shouldn’t have to.

Andrea Mendoza-Melchor, a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communication, is an opinions writer.

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