The first week of October is known as Mental Awareness Week. “A Conversation About Mental Health In College,” hosted by the ABLE club, and Associate Director of the Counseling Center at Vanguard, Doctor Michelle Robison have reminded students why it is important to spread awareness on mental disorders and to give advice as to how stress in particular can be alleviated for college students.
Generally, the mental health issues impacting young adults the most are depression and anxiety. These can affect one with varying levels of severity specific to each individual.
Depression can cause difficulty focusing/concentrating, sleeping too little or too much, weight gain or loss, lethargy, flat affect or lacking emotional response, and isolating oneself.
Some types of depression or disorders that can cause depressive symptoms are: Major Depression, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Psychotic Depression, Peripartum (Postpartum) Depression, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), and ‘Situational’ Depression.
Whereas anxiety can cause: rapid firing thoughts, to be hyper vigilant, and physiological symptoms such as panic attacks, hyperventilating, and physically shaking.
The different types of anxiety disorders are: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobia, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some ways for college students to cope with these problems are to take a break, relax for a moment with yoga or music or anything that relaxes you. Limit your caffeine intake. Deep breathing is a classic strategy with numerous breathing techniques that can be found easily with a quick Google search. Welcome humor, watch a funny Youtube video, anything to lighten the mood. And most importantly, what was highly recommended by Robison: Get a full, at least, 7 HOURS OF SLEEP.
College is stressful because it matters to us and we don’t want to fail. Anxiety is a normal emotion, we have it to be aware of possible dangers. These are normal emotions, but when these emotions take control and wreak havoc on our daily life that is when they become a problem.
The fight-or-flight response in the face of danger is good and normal, but it is harmful when it is used for challenges instead of threats. To remedy this one can learn breathing techniques to calm down and get a clearer perspective of the situation, to not let freaking out be the “normal” response.
Over the years the stigma that was attached to mental illnesses has gone away as more people are educated and made aware of these disorders.
“The thoughts [of a person] lead to behavior [which] leads to outcome.” states Michelle Robison, PhD.
A person may not learn resilience or be able to deal with their disorder, which causes a self fulfilling prophecy of not trying because of thinking that the disorder will prevent them from being able to function.
But when the severity of depression, anxiety, or any disorder is so bad that a student fails every class in a semester because of being depressed for 2 weeks. That the anxiety keeps them from even being able to enter a classroom or when the panic attack hits so harshly that they think they’re having a heart attack. The reality of their symptoms and mental illnesses, especially the more severe form, are very real.
It becomes even more difficult to brush off mental disorders as well when sometimes there is only standing room in the Behavioral Health Unit of a hospital.
Robison recommends that any students who may even suffer from a manageable form of a mental disorder should visit a counselor. As although you may be able to “white knuckle” through the day if left untreated for too long you may just be making the symptoms more severe as time goes on. It takes a lot of courage to admit that you may be suffering from something you cannot control but to prevent things like the rebound effect, where suppressed emotions eventually come back with a vengeance, it is very worth it.
Friends and family can also help people with mental disorders. If you know someone who you think may or does suffer some mental disorder ask how they’re doing. Check up on them and make sure they’re okay. Let them know that you care about them and be a part of their support system. Sometimes not all of them need counseling so much as just someone they can talk to about it with.
Vanguard thankfully supports students who suffer from mental disorders. One way they do is by having the Counseling Center on Campus. Located at the Smith building, in between the NMC and the IT department, Counseling is open Mondays through Fridays between the hours of 8am and 8pm. Students may make an appointment, although if a crisis is happening one can walk in and their should be a counselor who can help them immediately. The Counseling Center will collaborate with anybody to make a treatment plan and show techniques that can be used on a daily basis to help with whatever one may be suffering from.
There is also the Disabilities Services who help accommodate things for students and can cooperate with the Counseling Center with permission.
In addition to these resources Vanguard is planning in the next month to add a Living Wellness page to the school website. This new resource will have mindfulness audio to teach students to relax and get a clear perspective and practices of mindfulness and well being. There are also Thrive Workshops which teach students about various subjects. They are held on the 4th Monday of each month in the Heath building from 10 to 11. More information on these can be found on myVU or around the campus on posters that are staked to the ground.
If these resources are not enough students can always search online to see if their local church offers counseling.
“There’s hope, you don’t have to go it alone and that you don’t have to live life like that. That it takes effort and courage on your part… there is hope and you can get resources. You don’t have to suffer. You just don’t and that you can work with somebody in order to help you not just get your life back on track but to really flourish.” says Robison.