“ I am the only one who is crying in my room while everyone else is walking around like they’re fine”. If I had a dollar for every time one of my college student clients (especially a first semester freshman) have said this to me, I’d be retired on an island by now. I often respond with “Really? Because you are the 5th person to come into my office today and say that”. Typically this will bring about a giggle or sigh of relief. My point in sharing this with my clients is that most people are struggling in some way, shape, or form, whether they show it or not. The girl you think has it all, the expensive car, the football player boyfriend, the social status, was in my office earlier because of self harming behaviors due to the stress of upholding her exterior. It is mentally and physically exhausting, and she is not sure how much longer she can take it.
These are situations that are all too familiar to a therapist who works with college students, unfortunately many of the students themselves are unaware of just how much they are struggling, and how normal that is in relation to their peers. After all, at 18 years old you have just been tasked with moving away from home, knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life so you can declare a major, making new friends and social connections, and succeeding academically….no pressure right?! Wrong. According to a sample of statistics listed below, we know that there is a huge mental health crisis on our campuses, yet many students, and parents do not know how to help themselves or their child find the resources they need for support on campus.
- ● Loneliness: Over 63% of college students reported feeling very lonely in the last year (American College Health Association, 2017)
- ● Anxiety: Nearly 30% of college students reported feeling overwhelming anxiety in the past two weeks (Statista, 2018)
- ● Depression: Rates of moderate to severe depression among college students rose from 23.2% in 2007 to 41.1% in 2018 (Journal of Adolescent Health, 2019)
- ● Suicide: The suicide rate among those aged 10-24 increased 56% between 2007 and 2017 (CDC, 2019)
- ● Fifty-three percent of college presidents listed student mental health among their biggest COVID-19-related worries (American Council on Education, 2020)
- ● Sources: A CHA, S tatista, Duffy et al., C DC, ACEThese statistics, among others, are alarming, but they don’t have to be as overwhelming if you know your supportive resources on campus. During orientation, it is common for groups of students to be shown around campus, and told where the Counseling center and public safety, among other resources are located, yet I have had many students tell me they were trying to take so much in on that day, they forgot where it was, or forgot about it entirely. If you or your child find themselves confused about where to find resources on campus, they will all be listed on the school website. Although there are many sources of support on campuses, (public safety, diversity and inclusion, women’s center, career counseling center etc.) I have included some of the most utilized by students with mental health concerns below, and how they can help.
- ● Counseling and Psychological Services- Most campuses usually have free and confidential counseling services for students currently enrolled at the university. This can be a great place to go for general support, crisis,learning coping skills, learning about other specific resources on campus that could help them, and receiving medication management.
- ● Title IX Coordinator- The Title IX Coordinator oversees the University’s response to reports and complaints that involve possible sex discrimination, harassment, or abuse to monitor outcomes, identify and address any patterns, and assess effects on the campus climate so the University can address issues that affect the wider school community. Supportive measures may be implemented at any time and may include: Course-related extensions and adjustments. University-issued and enforced no contact orders. Work and/or course schedule adjustments.
- ● Disability Services- If you have a pre-existing 504 plan, IEP, or mental or physical health diagnosis that may affect your ability to be successful in school or on campus, you can register with the office of disability services. The office can put in place reasonable accommodations based on your diagnosis that you can utilize to help you succeed. Students should know that their diagnosis is kept confidential from professors, they are only aware of what accommodations they must provide, if the student chooses to use them. A few examples of reasonable accommodations include, distraction reduced environment, extended test taking time, note takers, and utilizations of smart pens.After the Virginia Tech shooting in 2017, college campuses across the U.S were charged with having a team of individuals, usually made up of counselors, public safety officers, academic advisors, disability services, resident directors, deans, and student life directors. These are often called community assessment teams, or threat assessment teams. The purpose of this group is to have individuals from major areas of student life on campus meet as a group to discuss any reports that have been made about students of concern. The reason this came about as a result of the 2017 shooting, is that it was discovered after the fact, that several of the shooter’s teachers, fellow students, and advisors were concerned about him, but no one communicated about it. If the individuals with this knowledge had come together and known there was campus wide concern about this individual, measures could have been taken to stop him before the tragedy took place. Students, as well as staff can often access anonymous reporting forms on the school website that can be filled out about a student who you think may be in distress. The assessment team will then go over these forms and decide the best course of action to take.
In addition to your on campus resources, practicing good self care is imperative to staying healthy inside and out, and your overall success at school. Make time to move your body, develop a good sleep routine, eat healthfully, (but still indulge in pizza with friends) limit substances that can harm your body, and get involved in a club, sport, or other student activity that can connect you with like minded individuals!
So, now that you know where to find help on campus, and that you are not the only Freshman who is scared to walk out into the residence hall and introduce themselves, while trying to figure out your future, make friends, and get good grades, go out and get the support you need! I promise you are not alone!!
Tracy Funke, LPC
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