The photo above displays a college student studying for an upcoming exam. (Photo Credit: Alexander Muldrow/Towson University)
Alexis Berry is currently a college sophomore at Towson University who has been struggling with a lot of stress over the last few years. Berry admitted that she has been dealing with symptoms of depression ever since her senior year at high school. She said things that lead to her rising stress levels are nonspecific to both school and family life.
“I definitely feel like family life started to take a toll more this semester, and it started to affect me more this semester than in the past… because I was used to just suppressing whatever was going on, and now this semester started to become too much,” Berry said.
“I think it started last semester… it was the worst I have ever done,” Berry said. “My grades were some sh-t, and then this semester I realized how unhappy I was with my major, I hated all my classes. I actually never liked any class that I have taken at Towson [University]. I figured that, that was a sign that I needed to change my major.”
Eventually, Alexis Berry decided to seek help after a friend recommended a visit to the counseling center.
The college semester is typically shorter in terms of length of school year when compared to secondary schools. A college semester lasts roughly 15 weeks which is 3 months a semester, but the courses that students take at universities are far more strenuous in terms of course work than secondary schools.
Many college students develop more and more stress as the college semester progresses due to an increasing demand in classes. Attempting to balance social and academic life, and as well as one’s own person needs. Although the majority of students may not physically display that they are stressed out, a significant portion of students are going through some type of mental stress, either it being a small or big problem.
College courses also involve an extensive amount of work outside of actual lecture time as well. College students must complete homework assignments, study for exams, and or write papers for each of their courses in order to pass. Each of these tasks take hours to complete if a student wishes to be successful in their courses, and it all affects students mentally, as well as physically.
Each and every student has a unique situation coming into college, and everything that they have been exposed to over the course of their life affects who they are mentally. Many of students come in to college with signs of mental stress due to their personal situations, and duration of the college semester only adds on to the stress levels that college students have. When many students decide to not get help for their personal issues, it leads to depression, resulting in a student having lower grades lower self-esteem, and could possible lead to suicide.
“A big factor for why I am like this is family,” said Berry about her problems that exist outside of college life. But, the demand from her college classes only added to her mental stress.
Many universities have counseling centers that provide mental support for students going through whatever problems that they have. These counseling centers play a vital role in helping students cope with some of the certain situations that they deal with in their everyday life.
Dr. Maria Wydra is a staff psychologist at Towson University’s counseling center, and she is also the coordinator of sexual assault services on the campus as well.
“My focus here is on the issues that college students tend to have at this time in their life,” Dr. Wydra said.
“The majority of our students are coming in for stress… either it’s relational stress, academic stress, mental health stress. Dr. Wydra said. “Depression is probably a good quarter to a third of our students who actually come into the counseling center [for depression].”
“Primarily we are dealing with people deal with people who have anxiety, depression, or relationship issues, or academic issues that are related to some kind of mental health problem,” Dr. Wydra said.
Dr. Wydra reported that the counseling center sees about 3000 students a semester. She also reported that the counseling center begins to have an influx of students from the middle to the end of the semester because at that time students get an increase course work from their professors.
Almost every college students comes into an overwhelming situations at one point or another during college semester, and if their situation is not addressed, it can lead to increased stress or possibly even depression.
Alcohol and drugs are so prominent in college campuses because many students are looking for ways to cope with their current mental situations. But, even though it is clear to college students that these recreational drugs do not cure them of whatever problem they have, many people still do it regardless. They use these activities as brief suppressors to help them feel better at the moment, even though long term they could possibly only help make the situation worst.
One of the most important things that Dr. Wydra said students should do to help cut down on stress in their lives is to say “no” sometimes. She explained that it is vital for students to not try to overwhelm themselves when it comes to completing tasks.
Dr. Wydra said that there are a wide variety of coping strategies that students can do to cut back on stress, and it is all center around voicing what is wrong. It is vital for students to seek social support from friends, clubs, family, religious groups, significant other etc. These things listed above are just a fraction of the many things students can do to cut back on stress.
She also said that it is important for students to reach out their friends as well, and be that open ear to anyone going through a difficult mental situation No matter if it is friend, roommate, or classmate, Dr. Wydra stressed how important it was to help other students in need.
Alexis Berry ended up changing her major from international business to economics, and she said that it felt like that decision lifted a large burden off of her shoulders, and changing her career plan helped a lot. She also attends the counseling center at Towson University every other week now.
“They have really good advice, and give you someone to talk to,” said Berry in regards to the help from the counseling center. “About dealing with stress, managing stress… dealing with anxiety.”
Berry also provided advice for other students who can be going through a situation similar to her own.
“Just try and remember, they [family] are not you… At the end of the day they are not going to school for you, gonna get a job for you, it’s all on you,” Berry said. “So try and not use them as a factor whenever you are making a decision.”