By: Derek Beaven – Staff writer
It’s not easy being a college student. Between balancing the pressures of class, homework, part-time jobs, and social and familial duties, there isn’t much room for relaxation.
Recent studies have shown that mental health among college students has become a pressing concern, and Centre is no exception.
“We are completely in line with national college [and] university numbers,” Director of Counseling Services Kathy Miles said. “Numbers of sessions have increased every year for seven years, and the number of students who utilize services at some point during an academic year has also increased each year. During the academic year of 2012-2013, 15.5% of our students sought help for at least one session throughout the academic year.”
Miles cited several reasons for this increase, including the fact that the number of people seeking help for mental health problems is on the rise in the general population as well at colleges.
She also noted that many students are receiving earlier treatment that must continue through college, and that Millennials are more likely to seek treatment for problems than members of past generations.
While it’s difficult to identify all of the underlying issues that can cause mental health issues, Miles identified the most common factors, especially among college students. These factors include family and academic pressures, as well as economic pressures like student loans or the poor job market.
“There are thought to be several contributing factors,” Miles said. “No one factor explains the increase in mental health problems being reported on college campuses. The most common reasons being given are … Economic pressures which impact students – concerns about graduating college, loan debt, a challenging job market for graduating students and for their families – [the] highly competitive and demanding academic environment of many colleges [and] other stressors and challenging issues in so many families, which impact college students in those families.”
With economics and academics set as two primary concerns within the life of an undergraduate, it’s important to address these issues and to try and find ways to help students cope with stress.
Miles said that economic stress manifests itself mainly in the form of parents losing jobs and thus income, while academic stress is more of a “self-reported,” individual factor. Miles suggested finding ways to take the pressure off, accepting the challenge of academics while avoiding the stress.
“Our Centre surveys consistently indicate that the high academic expectations at Centre are a major self-reported factor in our students’ stress level,” Miles said. “What we try to do in Counseling Services is to help students lower their perceived academic stress by improving time management, study skills, utilizing all campus resources better, and changing their thinking about academic stress to less catastrophizing and developing more acceptance of academics as a necessary and positive challenge that will bring life benefits.”
Students on campus are certainly feeling the pressures of college life, especially those about to graduate. Many seniors are anxious about leaving and breaking routines and connections they’ve set up within the past four years as well as facing the difficult job market. This in addition to the stress of trying to manage everyday life is something students must cope with.
“Centre College is an extremely difficult place,” senior Luke Wetton said. “You really have to master time management … In the past month-and-a half to two months, I moved to Fifth Street because I was subject to way too much stress and anxiety between academics and Greek life.”
“I think Centre’s high stress environment is a product of American culture,” senior Chelsea Neal said. “There’s this prevailing idea that you have to get good grades in college to get a good job in order to make money and be successful and happy.”
Neal also commented on the pressures of meeting those expectations. “And if you aren’t meeting those expectations, then you’re just not working hard enough and you need to stress yourself out more.”
Despite the challenges and issues facing college students across the nation, there are ways to both treat and potentially prevent any problems. Counseling services are provided on campus, always willing to extend a helping hand.
“I don’t want to slow students [from] being willing to seek help, particularly seeking help before problems worsen or become chronic,” Miles said. “We know that we can continue to do a better job of giving wellness information to our students, and encouraging them to apply the information in order to prevent problems before they develop.”