As the semester furthers and the weather cools, Counseling Services has seen an influx in visits. In October, Counseling Services had a total of 415 visits, an increase of 175 from the previous month.
Within these figures are a wide range of mental health concerns. For this semester, unspecified anxiety disorders were the most prevalent concern in August and September, with 27 visits regarding this concern in August and 31 in September. October’s top concern was generalized anxiety disorder, with 39 visits in this category.
“Over the last four to five years [anxiety has] become number one by a decent margin,” former Director of Counseling Services Courtney Boddie said. “I would speculate that [this is because] college students today face a lot more immediate pressures than college students of the past. I think that the pressure to achieve, to have an extremely high paying, lucrative position immediately after graduating and the fact that our students are exposed [in general] to a lot more stressors than they used to be … go together to create this big picture increase in anxiety.”
Boddie said that there are many possible factors that contribute to Counseling Services’ increase in visits in October, including an increase in awareness of the services it provides.
In October, Counseling Services saw 227 distinct new client visits as compared to 148 in September.
Other hypothesized factors are the increase in stress that the end of the semester brings and the impact of daylight saving time on students’ moods.
Freshman nursing major Marcus Kwasa, of Edwardsville, has experienced how the cold weather and decreased sunlight can yield a downturn in mental health.
Many other students have experienced this as well, as October saw the most individual visits of any month in the fall semester to date. October also surpassed each month of Spring 2018 in total visits.
“When it started getting colder … it’s that feeling of there’s a little bit more darkness,” Kwasa said. “That change is so little but it’s so impacting to your world.”
Advancement into the semester also brings more projects and final exams.
In the midst of all this, junior speech pathology and audiology major Katie Murphy, of Decatur, Illinois, encourages students to prioritize mental health.
“You can’t do well in school if you don’t take care of yourself because you are the person who performs in school,” Murphy said. “Health is everything; it should be your number-one priority.”
College is a critical time period when it comes to mental health.
According to Boddie, people are likely to begin to exhibit symptoms like mania or psychosis during the college years. In addition, some disorders, such as personality disorders, cannot officially be diagnosed until one reaches adulthood.
Even though mental health presents particular relevance to college students, stigma prevents many from getting help.
Recognizing this, Counseling Services is collocated with Health Services in room 0220 of the Student Success Center.
“Actually why one of the reasons that counseling and health [services] are collocated is we know that it’s easier for someone to go in and get a blood draw and get their blood pressure checked than it is to disclose mental health concerns to a counselor, so by being able to come into one space where it’s unknown why you’re here … helps a little bit for people to feel a little bit like there’s more anonymity,” Boddie said.
Students are limited to 10 to 15 free sessions per topic, but the majority of students need three to five sessions according to Counseling Services’ website.
To set up an appointment, call Counseling and Health Services office at 618-650-2842. Murphy encourages students to take advantage of the free help that the campus provides.
“Everyone has a brain, therefore mental illness and mental health is important to everyone,” Murphy said. “You upkeep your physical health in a number of ways; you also need to upkeep your mental health in the same ways.”