Dear Kelly,

My personal life is complicated right now, and I’m seriously having a difficult time focusing on my classes. I’ve fallen behind and am not sure what to do. I feel pulled in multiple directions and that something has to give. How can I continue being successful in my classes while also dealing with the personal challenges I am dealing with?

First of all, I would like to start off by saying I commend you for asking this question. Too often, students find themselves dealing with personal turmoil while trying to put on a brave face in their classes. They struggle to complete assignments, which causes even more stress and worry, further exacerbating the challenges in their lives. By asking this question, you’ve opened the door for other students who are dealing with challenges to get answers as well. Thank you for your courage.

Which leads me to saying that you are not alone. What do I mean by that? I certainly don’t want you to take that statement as, “Everyone goes through stuff, so suck it up and keep on trucking.” What I mean is that you really are not alone. You have people around you — in your classes, teaching your classes, staff and faculty committed to your success — that are there for you and want to help you navigate the hurdles you are facing.

I can tell you, honestly, your professors and advisers care. They care about you and your success. When they earned their position at Mercer, they took an oath to uphold the mission and vision of the University. That mission is “to teach, to learn, to create, to discover, to inspire, to empower and to serve.” Mercer (as a collective) values service to others, especially when it comes to empowering their students to become successful individuals who will change the world.

To demonstrate this point, I interviewed Jamie Brown, assistant director of operations and an instructor at Mercer’s Henry County Regional Academic Center. I asked her, “If a student was experiencing personal challenges and felt their ability to focus on classes and complete assignments was being compromised, what would you want them to know as their professor?”

Brown said: “First, definitely make sure that you stay in communication. Don’t ‘ghost’ your professor. Additionally, if you’re telling me, that means you probably have other classes and need to tell your other professors, as well. Otherwise, your overall GPA could suffer, even if you’re doing really well in the one you’re communicating in, and then do poorly in the other. Most professors put in their syllabus to contact them immediately if there is something they need to know.”

In addition to Brown’s suggestions and advice, know that Mercer provides counseling services for all students enrolled at the University. Those counseling services range from online sessions through Tao Connect — a valuable resource where you can find 150 brief, effective and educational sessions on over 50 topics related to a variety of concerns — to in-person counseling. To determine how to contact a counselor that can help, please contact:

And for the Regional Academic Centers, WellConnect services are available. WellConnect offers 24-hour, telephone-based support from licensed mental health professionals. Regional Academic Center students can receive five free sessions of short-term, face-to-face telephone or video counseling. To review all of the resources available through WellConnect, visit or call (877) 640-4777. For Douglas County students, the school code is MUDC-STU, and for Henry County students, the school code is MUHC-STU.

Brown also suggested if you are really struggling emotionally and mentally, you may also want to also reach out to your primary care provider.

“Above all, communication is key, not only between you and your professor but also between you and the people who surround you,” Brown said. “You cannot suffer in silence. No one was meant to suffer alone.”

In closing, remember you owe it to yourself to self-advocate. If you are struggling, please let someone know.

It may be as simple as meeting with your professor or adviser and telling them that you are having a difficult time, and you may need some wiggle room to complete tasks. It may mean that you contact your physician or a counselor to get support for things you are dealing with. It may even mean that you take a break from your classes so that you can focus on the life challenges you are facing.

Regardless, be sure to take care of yourself, communicate and self-advocate so that you can be the remarkable Bear you were born to be.

As always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey.

Kelly Browning, a master’s student and student success coordinator at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.


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