We often use the term “mental health” on a college campus to describe how we feel and act. While the use of this language matters, how we interpret and handle mental health problems matter even more.
Emotional, psychological and social distress can negatively affect our ability to function in day-to-day tasks. Chronic conditions may require continuous care and severe mental disorders may require extended therapy or medication.
Each year, universities across the country must address mental health issues, which can worsen if gone untreated. The 2017 annual survey by The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors lists anxiety as the most frequent concern among college students, followed by stress, depression and suicidal ideation.
A Time Magazine article highlights a growing number of college students seeking help from counseling services, though not all colleges can meet such demands, mainly due to poor funding. Elon students and staff have raised concerns about a shortage of staff and resources at counseling services.
Relocating funds to counseling services is one tactic, as universities acknowledge its impact on academic performance and student retention. Other efforts to combat mental health issues include off-campus clinics, crisis treatment, counseling mobile apps and even virtual reality therapies. Student-organized activities such as peer counseling program Active Minds (there is an Elon chapter) can also fight the stigma of mental health on college campuses.
It’s important that we treat a mental health problem at its onset. Various treatment options exist, but the crucial step is recognizing that we can seek help. If we don’t, we risk decreasing our state of wellbeing, academic performance, and personal motivation to achieve our goals.
We can increase awareness and support of mental health at Elon University by mentioning wellness services to our fellow classmates, advocating for additional mental health programs and more comprehensive health services and adopting good habits to improve our individual wellbeing. The suicide prevention training program QPR, for example, can provide basic strategies to help people who are suicidal. We should invest time and effort into existing programs such as the Koenigsberger Learning Center for academic support, Student Health Services, the Truitt Center for Religious & Spiritual Life and Campus Recreation, among other resources.
New strategies to support health and wellness are already underway. For the 2018-2019 academic year, President Book introduced The Well-Connected Campaign and Phoenix Walk to improve the health and wellbeing of our Elon community. The Well-Connected Challenge lasts for six weeks and is intended to help students have a promising start to their four years in college. The program encourages new students to engage with at least one event pertaining to community life, athletics, physical and emotional well-being, and personal or spiritual identity. All first-years who complete the challenge, which will conclude with a reception, have the opportunity to win prizes every week of participation.
We hope that future on-campus initiatives will continue the mission to improve wellbeing and students’ access to mental health services.