By Lauren Trumbull
A recent study done by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State found that anxiety has topped depression as the most widespread mental illness on college campuses. A survey done by the American College Health Association found that about one in six college students have been treated for or diagnosed with anxiety in the past year.
The University of Central Florida, with 60,000 students, is one of the country’s largest universities. According to a New York Times report, their school counseling center has seen a 15.2 percent spike in the amount of students seeking help in the past year. With the new rise in need for help, schools are finding themselves understaffed. At Central Florida, old storage closets were converted into therapists’ offices to try to accommodate the new surge in mental health problems.
The experts point to an array of different reasons as to why mental health issues are on the rise, one being “helicopter parents.” They are parents and guardians accustomed to “hovering” and giving their children constant oversight. Parents are keeping an eye on grades, making the student feel an intense pressure to succeed, which causes anxiety in the classroom.
Another issue with helicopter parents and their children is that students now “don’t have the ability to soothe themselves,” says Dan Jones, director of counseling and psychological services at Appalachian State University.
Another cause of anxiety may come from social media. This is something I personally can attest to. I had a difficult first semester in college; in fact, I didn’t end up staying at the college I originally chose. I was in no way having the experience that makes everyone say, “College is the best four years of your life.”
What made it a million times worse were Facebook and Instagram. Each time I logged on, I was faced with a feed filled with my high school friends linked arm and arm with their new college friends. Seeing that made me feel completely empty. I was incredibly embarrassed that I wasn’t having the fun that everyone else was having, so I kept my troubles to myself. I didn’t think anyone could possibly relate to the way I felt.
It wasn’t until after I transferred that I realized just how wrong I was. I had some friends who transferred and others who struggled and were not as happy as they made themselves seem to be. My biggest advice to anyone struggling with anxiety or troublesome feelings is to seek help. It is something I did not do, but I truly wish I did. Finding help would have saved me a lot of heartache, and no one should go through the feelings of sadness and stress completely alone.
The DeSales Counseling Center is one great resource for students in need. This is a free service for full-time students and offers professionally-trained therapists to help sort out what a student is going through.
According to the Counseling Center’s page on MyDSU Portal, “The staff offers services in a manner that respects the diversity and Christian Humanism reflected by the campus community, and realizes that gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religious and family backgrounds affect one’s beliefs and expectations about the counseling process.”
Sessions are 45 minutes long and the Counseling Center is located in the Wellness Center in McShea. When school resumes in the fall, students can stop by and make an appointment or call DeSales extensions 1462 or 1551.
Another excellent resource for students is Peers Advising Counseling Educating (PACE). This is a student-run organization that is professionally trained to help their peers.
“We have professional understanding and direction for our counseling; therefore, we can certainly be used as an asset to anyone seeking counseling,” says senior PACEr Lucie Loftus.
Throughout the year, PACE holds wellness programs for students to attend. One of the events last spring was the To Write Love on Her Arms benefit Open Mic Night held in conjunction with DSU Live. Before the performance and between sets throughout the show, PACE gave presentations and spoke about mental illness and the signs of suicidal thoughts. Students also came on stage to share their own stories with the audience.
“One in three persons will have a mental health illness in his or her lifetime. The fact that we don’t talk about mental health illness makes it a secret we all really share,” Loftus says.
The PACE team can be found in the Wellness Center during the school year where they have scheduled office hours twice a week.
One thing Loftus told me was how important it is to speak to family and friends. Having gone through a difficult time, I cannot agree more. This is something I wish I did. I didn’t tell many people what was going on with me because I felt ashamed. But having feelings of sadness and stress is nothing to be ashamed about—that’s just life. It’s important to seek help, and it’s okay to seek help. Something good may come of it. In my case, a friend from high school became my very best friend. She became my confidant, my “go-to-girl,” my “2 a.m. friend.” She was there for me always and I will never be able to describe to her just how thankful I am.
I urge anyone dealing with anxiety to go to the Wellness Center, to PACE or to a family member or friend. It’s okay, it’s normal and it will start to make you feel as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.