College stress: resources for help – Got Anxiety
Mary B. Barmann, MFT
University counseling centers are reporting that the primary mental health concern for todays college students is centered on mood and anxiety-related disorders.
Thus, colleges have an obligation to provide students with the resources necessary for acquiring skills directed at better regulating emotional states and building resilience, when needing to face the many academic and social-interpersonal demands seen within, and outside of, a university environment.
Having had 2 children of our own who attended college, we appeared at a variety of college orientation sessions.
Although these soon-to-be college freshman and their parents asked many questions during these orientations, inquiries typically revolved around meal plans, policies related to on-campus housing, financial aid, etc.
Unfortunately, not one question was ever directed at student mental health concerns. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone asked a question pertaining to the school’s resources concerning a student’s current or future problematic emotional condition?
As stated in an earlier article, 33 percent of college freshman enter school with a psychiatric disorder, typically anxiety or major depression, and 22 percent of students seek therapy at some point during their college careers.
Below, are questions that parents and their sons or daughters may want to consider asking prior to making a decision concerning their ultimate college choice:
• Can you briefly summarize the on-campus counseling services you make available to students with respect to emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, etc., as opposed to strictly academic counseling?
• Should our son or daughter decide to attend therapy at your student counseling center; what is your policy regarding parent notification practices concerning therapy sessions? I noticed that alcohol-related occurrences, as well as semester grades, are routinely reported to parents, regardless of the student’s age. What about issues related to student mental health concerns?
• If a student doesn’t feel comfortable receiving counseling services on campus, due to privacy issues, do you provide a list of off-campus mental health resources?
• Does your college have a system in place for helping to identify red flags related to students who may suddenly appear extremely depressed, anxious, at risk for self-harm, or any other problem concerning their emotional functioning?
• Is there any type of on-campus 24-hour crisis hotline available for students who may have an urgent need to speak with someone regarding a serious emotional issue?
RESOURCES FOR STUDENTS
There is a great deal of variability across colleges with respect to the type of mental health resources made available to students.
Due to the fact that colleges are the largest employer of psychologists in the country, it makes sense that academic institutions should have an abundance of student counseling services when the need arises.
Outlined below, is a list of resources made available by many colleges, for students in need of therapy regarding issues related to anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.
Please note, we are not advocating for any particular college to attend — we are simply applauding their efforts to help students in need of psychological services.
• Rutgers University attempts to shield students from materials that may trigger traumatic memories, anxiety or depressed mood. Thus, the university’s psychologists carefully choose which movies are shown each week on campus. Should these movies, or other campus materials, result in any type of serious negative mood state, students are given the option to retreat to a designated “safe room” on campus, staffed by mental health professionals.
• UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis and Cornell all offer “puppy day” once each week, which allows for any student who is feeling stressed to stop by a specific location on campus to spend as much time as they want with the puppy of their choice. For many students, puppy day offers them the emotional comfort typically felt only when visiting back home;
• All students at Penn State are required to take the university’s on-line course, entitled “Emotional Regulation,” before beginning their freshman year.
• Harvard has a website, “The Success-Failure Project,” which showcases professors who have experienced rejection and failure prior to becoming successful, highlighting the message — adversity breeds resilience.
• The University of Florida has the Therapist Assisted Online Program, which delivers therapy to students with anxiety disorders on a computer or smartphone. The 7-session program teaches students methods for regulating emotion, relaxation training strategies and problem-solving skills.
In the final analysis, parents, as well as all colleges throughout the country, have a responsibility to discover creative resources directed at providing students with the help they need to enjoy success on a college campus; from both an academic and mental health standpoint.
Barry C. Barmann, Ph.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Nevada and California. His wife, Mary B. Barmann, MFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. Barry may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org; visit anxietytreatmentinclinevillage.com to learn more.
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