College life can be exciting, but also can be challenging.
Besides searching for independence, there comes a new level of responsibilities — academically and socially.
That’s why administrators and student leaders at Pasco-Hernando State College organized a Community Resource Fair and Symposium on mental health and well-being, at the college’s East Campus in Dade City.
Research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness on mental health on college campuses shows:
- 25 percent of students have a diagnosable illness
- 40 percent do not seek help
- 80 percent feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities
- 50 percent have been so anxious they struggled in school
About a dozen organizations were present during the April 19 event — part of the college’s ongoing community awareness series.
Several local mental health and wellness agencies were on hand, including BayCare Behavioral Health, and Sunrise of Pasco County Domestic and Sexual Violence Center.
Representatives from those groups, along with a college staff member, led a panel discussion on mental fitness among college students.
One of the panelists was Jacqui Turner, a liaison for BayCare Health System’s Student Assistance Program (SAP), which provides support to students in dealing with personal, academic, or relationship problems via referral services through managed care benefits and other community resources.
According to Turner, most college students utilize the SAP service because they struggle balancing school, work and general life obligations.
Those stresses, Turner said, can translate to poor classroom performance.
“When your mind is focused elsewhere,” she said, “you’re not performing to your fullest potential…and your grades go down pretty fast.”
Aside from stress, feelings of anxiety and depression can also be prevalent among college students, Turner noted.
Another panelist, Chuck Wilson— the college’s executive director of the President’s Institute for College Preparation, Completion, Certification, Leadership Development — suggested financial decisions—good and bad—can impact mental well-being.
He said most debt is created right out of college.
“As you’re preparing for life, don’t mess up your money,” he said.
That includes incorporating preventative measures, such as saving and smart spending habits. “If you don’t do that,” Wilson said, “now you’re dealing with depression, and fear and anxiety.”
Later on, Wilson advised those with financial struggles to seek help from elder family members and dabble with financial literacy programs.
“Often there’s value in age and experience,” he said.
He also advocated performing a self-assessment “when something is weighing you.”
“Have courageous conversation with yourself. When you tell yourself the truth, I think that’s the baseline for rising above whatever the situation is.”
With April being National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a portion of the symposium centered on ways to support victims and survivors of sexual assault, dating and violence domestic and stalking.
The topic was led by Aubrey Hall, Green Dot coordinator for Sunrise of Pasco. The Green Dot Bystander aims to end or reduce the amount of violence found on university campuses.
According to Hall, one in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and one in six men will be stalked.
“These numbers rise when college is in session,” Hall explained. “When you’re in college, you’re four times more likely to be assaulted than when you’re not in college.”
She pointed out survivors of violence “sometimes feel guilty or shameful, because they feel like they should have acted.”
Empowering those victims, Hall said, starts with utilizing proper interaction techniques.
One such technique, called trauma-informed care, is an approach that aims to engage people with histories of trauma, recognize the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledge the role that trauma has played in their lives.
“When you go and you interact with somebody, you don’t really know what they’ve been through. And, it’s really not right to ask somebody about it,” Hall said.
“I never go into a room assuming no one’s experienced violence.”
She, too, never asks ‘why,’ when dealing with trauma victims, due to its presumptive tone.
“If you’re asking somebody why something happened to them, you’re putting the blame on them. You’re putting the onus on them,” Hall said.
She added: “Language is extremely important. Not only how you’re asking the questions, but then following up.”
Published April 26, 2017