How to find your peace of mind: a closer look at mental health on the University’s campus

How to find your peace of mind: a closer look at mental health on the University’s campus

Julie Spierer, Special Features Editor

Nearly every student has felt stressed out at one point or another, especially now in the presence of midterm exams and assignments.

Immersed in such a highly academic and social environment, students are bound to feel a surge of stress or a spell of the blues every now and then; however, when nerves and sadness intervene with academic success, productivity, and relationships, these imbalances can be an indication of the mental illnesses of anxiety and depression.

Anxiety is characterized by a state of prolonged uneasiness and apprehension, so college stress may contribute to increased anxiety. From feelings of anxiety and inadequacy may arise feelings of sadness; if this sadness persists, an individual may suffer from depression and lose interest in daily activities.

Although universities nationwide are beginning to see an increase in mental health awareness on their campuses, the amount of students who report suffering from depression and anxiety is startling. Researchers Hunt and Eisenberg (2010) report that half of the health concerns related to individuals among the ages of 18-24 are related to mental health. Untreated mental health complications impact nearly all aspects of a student’s lifestyle.

The roots of the epidemic  

In entering an environment that is filled with many demands of different natures, some students may have an unrealistic idea that they must succeed in everything they set to achieve. When commitments accumulate and time does not allow for sufficient sleep, maintenance of a balanced diet, adequate exercise, and general relaxation, students’ overall well-being becomes jeopardized.

“For relaxing, I would encourage students to view self-care as a very important aspect of their lives. Self-care should not be something people engage in only after completing all their work and social engagements. Mental health affects how we feel physically and emotionally, whether we choose to socialize with others and how well we do in school. It should be a priority,” Associate Director of the Counseling and Student Development Center (CSDC) Marina Shafran said.

“Without getting enough sleep and scheduling specific time for studying, it’s extremely hard to get all your work done and have free time, too. Self-care is extremely important,” Melissa Capano ’22 said.

Perhaps one of the most stressful aspects of college is the amount of change that takes place in a relatively short period of time. The transition to college is filled with unpredictable and often uncontrollable experiences that provoke, in many, feelings of unease. A large part of regulating anxiety is that it is often more important to place energy into managing reactions to stress rather than trying to alter a stressful situation.

“The most difficult part of college is all the different adjustments that need to be made. It is not just taking more difficult classes, but being away from home, for many people, for the first time in their lives. The pressure of making friends and not being the one left out, navigating romantic relationships, social media expectations, finances, and the fact that stressors will keep on coming sophomore, junior and senior year as well,” Shafran said. “Some students come here from opposite parts of the country, or the world, some on scholarship, and do not have a chance to travel home for extended periods of time. For students who are from underrepresented populations, the stress is even higher.  I really do believe that it is much harder to be a student now than in the past and students frequently do not have adequate support to navigate the process.”

As academics become increasingly competitive while students try to find post-graduation employment, students’ anxiety levels are at all-time highs.

Many students like to put on their “game face” and push through anxiety and stress, insisting that they are handling the juggle of the many different aspects of their college lifestyle. Instead of confronting the issue head-on, many students turn to coping mechanisms they view as more easily accessible, like drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, these substances merely put a bandage on deeply rooted issues that must ultimately be addressed in order to achieve a healthy mental state.

Peers’ words

“I don’t think we are taught enough about mental health when we are young. It isn’t socially acceptable to talk about and has a strong negative stigmatism. Bucknell and college in general is meant to challenge us so it would make sense if not everything was okay. We are supposed to struggle and it is okay to talk about. It does not make someone weak if they are struggling with their mental health, just like it does not make someone weak if they have a broken foot. Many people are struggling, but few people talk about it. Especially here, people try and pretend that everything is okay. Struggling with mental health is normal and it’s something that cannot be ignored. You do not have to feel ostracized. You are not alone. I would encourage anyone going through a rough time to find the support you need because overcoming the challenge will make you a stronger and happier person” Noah Molk ’19 said.

“My chronic battle with depression has created a burning desire for me to spread awareness about the necessity for self-love and self-care. I don’t believe anyone can reach their highest potential in school or in the workforce if their mind and body are not at peace with one another. The rate of mood disorders and suicides are increasing at terrifying rates and it’s important that we pay more attention to the mental well-being of ourselves and the people around us. Mental suffering is no different than physical suffering, and society must progress towards understanding this fact,” Mishi Papich ’19 said.

“Self love is where it begins and self love is where it’ll hopefully end. The lack of it will prevent vulnerabilities from being expressed, and in turn, the stigma surrounding mental health will remain. On the flip side, when self love is established, that is when we as individuals realize something of utmost importance: it’s okay to not be okay. It allows us to share our story with the hope of not only helping ourselves, but helping so many others as well. With self-love you give yourself the realest, the fullest, the most beautiful opportunity to thrive & grow as a human being. You give yourself the opportunity to seek help & to assist others when they need help as well. Self love is when you realize you are strong enough to overcome any obstacle that comes at your way in this life time. So what are you waiting for? Embrace your imperfections, embrace your highest self, and embrace the chance to be so strong and so beautiful,” Anna Chiodo Ortiz ’19 said.

Five to-dos to stress less

  1. Be mindful – as simple as it sounds, stop what you are doing and breathe. You can practice mindfulness wherever you are — with friends or in class. It is about being aware of negative thoughts and your reactions to them.
  2. Exercise – it produces endorphins and leads to increased feelings of well-being. If you don’t want to hit the gym, go for a walk outside or play a pick-up game of your favorite sport with your friends!
  3. Sleep – with social commitments and academics, you have to find the time to sleep. It is just as important to your physical well-being as your mental well-being.
  4. Diet – the neurotransmitters of serotonin and dopamine are the “feel good” chemicals in your brain and are actually made from things you eat. Eat well and make sure to eat consistently throughout the day; and drink plenty of water!
  5. Get involved – joining clubs and organizations is not only a great way to feel a part of something larger, but also a distraction from real life.

The Counseling & Student Development Center

A sixth option, and in some cases the most impactful of all for students to stress less, is through utilizing the University’s counseling services.

The Counseling and Student Development Center (CSDC) aspires to provide a safety net for all students, regardless of the situation. All services are free and strictly confidential, and the counselors and psychologists are trained medical professionals whose areas of study are concentrated on the developmental needs of college students.

If you or someone you know may benefit from the support of the CSDC, call (570)-577-1604 to set up an appointment, or visit the center’s walk-in consultation hours, Monday-Friday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“For students who are suffering but do not want to seek help, I want them to know that they can come in and try us out, even it is just for a one-time appointment. They are not signing up for months of therapy, they are just coming in that day. It is also confidential and free,” Shafran said.

Remember to be kind to one another, and to yourself — you never know what someone is going through.

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