Students, school seek more conversation about mental health

Mental health is often a subject college students shy away from, or make sly jokes about. But it’s a major problem.

Consider that 80 percent of students feel overwhelmed by their academic responsibilities and only 60 percent of these students seek help, according to the National Alliance in Mental Illness. Fifty percent say these struggles affect their grades.

At SCCC, it is a topic dedicated to small sections of professors’ syllabuses, and one small collection of pamphlets in the Health Services Office. 

Mental health issues include but are not limited to: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction and feeling suicidal. The signs can be difficult to spot depending on how the person copes with them, which makes offering aid to those who are struggling that much harder. 

It’s harder to reach out to students who need help at transient schools like Suffolk, experts say.

“The stigma has changed in more recent years, but it’s still difficult to talk about mental health,” said 26-year-old Evan Haun, the coordinator of Mental Health Services on the Ammerman campus, “We try to make ourselves as accessible and seen as possible, visiting as many classrooms as we can to decrease the anxiety of the issue.” 

The transient problem

Suffolk offers many services that fit all types of students, from group sessions to individual counseling, which includes three to five sessions with a counselor. A new service being offered is creative arts therapy, which involves creating paintings, 3D sculpture and other forms of art to help express how one is feeling if they don’t have the words to. Every service is confidential, excluding immediate emergencies, Haun said.

Another option is a group activity called Wind Down Wednesdays that takes place during Common Hour in the Meditation Room of the Babylon Student Center.

While it’s focus isn’t necessarily on mental illness, it does seek to bring comfort and relaxation to those who may feel stressed from school or outside issues. During the meetings, they enjoy meditating, coloring and aromatherapy.

Students interviewed this story said they felt the issue is “extremely important,” and something that should at least be addressed at the beginning of semesters.

However, they said it is one seldom discussed by professors.

“The only time I can remember mental health being discussed in class was psychology, and it was discussed thoroughly. Other than that, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a professor bring it up,” said 19-year-old Stevie Adams, a Radio/TV major from Selden.

The mental health department also feels professors have a sort of responsibility to make the services known to their students.

“It was a hard push to get professors to include information about our services, but I’m happy we did because we’ve seen a considerable increase in the amount of students coming in for sessions. When we ask where they heard about us, they’ll usually say their professors referred them,” Haun said.

How can we address the problem better?

As far as what they feel could be done to improve the issue, answers ranged from creating polls, to simply being more vocal and starting a more open conversation within the campus.

“I think some sort of email survey could help so administration and the staff would know where to go from here,” said 20-year-old Jovian Schaeffer, a liberal arts major from Middle Island.

When asked about what could be improved about the school’s approach, Adams said, “I think Suffolk should let us know that this is a safe space to make anyone with any sort of mental health issue feel like they’re not alone.”

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