Photo credits: @finnnyc via Unsplash
We drink glasses of water before bed, restrict screen time and take mental health walks. But is this brand of “self care” really aiding in the way we need it? Starting therapy is a pivotal step for students in ensuring their emotional, social and academic wellbeing.
At a time when nearly half of college students report feelings of depression and anxiety, a slice of lemon in a glass of ice water is not the answer. Collective traumas of a deadly global pandemic, civil unrest and staggering debt loom over students means depression is on the rise, and along with it, suicide — the second leading cause of death for 17–24 year olds. While therapy may not be the absolute solution to everyone’s situation, it’s a starting block for the long journey that is working through mental illness.
Many students wouldn’t consider themselves to have a mental illness. However, therapy can be a big part in realizing undiagnosed or overlooked illness. Difficulty handling school workload, feeling overwhelmed or panicked, low energy and changes in sleep schedules are all traits easily blamed on the lifestyle of a college student. However, a lot of these struggles are also signs of depression and anxiety. It was only months after I began seeing a therapist that I realized I have depression. From there, I was able to get help better suited for my needs and the positive results have been tremendous.
The benefits of therapy extend beyond offering support for mental illness. Having a professional dedicated to hearing and helping you can make the world of a difference for tough days, breakups, finals and drama. Psychotherapy doesn’t have to be week in and week out of intense talk. Sessions can be one-on-one, group, in-person, online or with a furry friend in animal-assisted therapy. Regardless of frequency or approach, simply being able to sit down and sort out thoughts and emotions translates to a more clear and balanced personal and academic life.
Despite the overwhelming upsides of therapy, a survey conducted by Student Voice in April 2021 found that while 65% of students reported their mental health status as fair or poor, 74% reported not having accessed mental health services. Unfortunately, negative stigmas surrounding therapy and mental health still hold substantial importance. Societal and cultural factors have built an obstacle course of toxicity, pride and insurance bills around access to better mental health care. The good news is, most universities, including West Chester University, offer free mental health counseling. So if it’s not a good fit, you walk away having lost nothing. However, psychotherapy is individualized and counselors may need more than a few sessions to get to know you, so be prepared to give it a good chance before saying it’s not a good fit. The crucial note is that patience is key and to start psychotherapy is to open a door to new options of useful exercises, eye-opening discussion, a counselor or program that is a good fit and medication.
Let’s face it, talking about feelings is hard — being vulnerable is hard and facing stigmas surrounding mental health is hard. But dealing with stress, anxiety or depression on your own is, arguably, a greater burden. We need to move forward talking openly about therapy and mental illness. Having honest dialogue supporting mental health addresses the shame and stigmas that isolate ones affected by it. While exercise, social time and proper rest are important, we can’t use these band-aids to heal our wounds of trauma and mental illness.
Cole Fiadino is a third-year Media & Culture major. CF987228@wcupa.edu