Mon. May 16th, 2022

Photo credits: Noah Silliman

It was just my first semester of college when I joined the 39% of college students who experience a significant mental health issue. We are constantly told that college is supposed to be the best four years of our lives, yet many of us are struggling. College students are often forced to prioritize their grades over their mental health, when mental health is just as — or even more — important than their GPA. West Chester University should look to how other universities are handling their students’ mental health and follow their guidance. Nobody should have to wait until it’s too late to put their mental health first.

According to the Healthy Minds Study, 39% of college students surveyed reported experiencing depression. In the same survey, 34% of students reported experiencing anxiety. Students feel the effects of depression and anxiety for a multitude of reasons. Grades, breakups, homesickness and isolation are all potential factors for why the mental health of college students is on the decline. 

In addition, the pandemic and political unrest in recent years have also played a major part in how students are feeling. The National Alliance on Mental Illness lists the warning signs of students struggling with mental health. Some of the more common warning signs include: negative emotions, irregular sleeping and eating habits and loss of interest in activities. With over a quarter of students struggling with depression and anxiety alone, our schools should be doing more for their student’s mental health. Students should not have to feel alone in trying to help themselves.

Students are hesitant to seek help. According to the Mayo Clinic Health System, 75% of students struggling with their mental health don’t seek proper help. In addition, when students do try, it isn’t typically until a mental health crisis has already occured. Early intervention refers to recognizing the signs of a mental health problem and acting upon it before the situation worsens. 

Universities promoting early invention can be beneficial in aiding students to recognize the symptoms of mental health issues and encourage them to seek out help. Some universities, such as Northwestern, have integrated conversations about mental health into their orientation for new students. During orientation, students attend sessions about alcohol safety,sexual health and mental health deserves the same kind of attention. Discussions of mental health shouldn’t be a taboo topic. Students should feel encouraged and comfortable seeking out help, or just talking about it.

West Chester University does provide counseling services to their students which I applaud and have used myself. However, many universities are struggling to meet the student demand for use of their counseling services. Students have reported that they are unable to schedule an appointment without a long wait, which is an issue for both West Chester and universities around the nation. Stanford University has addressed this concern by creating The Bridge, an anonymous peer counseling center. The Bridge is staffed by both Stanford students and professionals who undergo training in order to properly provide these services. The Bridge is open between noon and midnight for walk-ins, and takes phone calls between noon and 9 a.m. the next morning. West Chester University’s counseling center only operates between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the week. The creation of a West Chester counseling center like The Bridge would allow students to feel more comfortable in reaching out for help with mental health concerns. It would also allow students to not have to worry about long waits or appointments.

Drexel University has also been more proactive in handling their students’ mental health. Students are able to take a screening on a kiosk that assesses for mental health concerns, and then provides resources. This concept is simple and accessible which mental health services should be. West Chester University creating a program like The Bridge or installing check-in kiosks are just some of the ways the university can help students’ mental health. Although West Chester University has been good about providing mental health resources for their students, there is always room for improvement. West Chester should take note of what other universities such as Stanford and Drexel are doing, and use this as motivation to improve the conditions at our school for the sake of students’ mental health.

Kelly Wallace is a first-year Media & Culture major. 

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