Depression. Anxiety. Eating disorders. Substance abuse. These are only a few of the many mental health disorders that affect hundreds of thousands of college students on a day-to-day basis.
When it comes to mental health on the Fairfield University campus, the doctors at Counseling and Psychological Services say that they’re doing their best to help students deal with these pressing issues.
Now more than ever, college students need help in dealing with mental issues while on campus. Dr. Charles Morgan, Dr. Susan Birge, and Dr. Elise Harrison voiced these sentiments last Wednesday at a conference discussing mental health trends on college campuses.
“Mental illness generally manifests between the ages of 18-24,” said Morgan “And these days, about 15-20 percent of students who enroll in college are already on psychotropic medications.”
The American College Health National Assessment reported that in 2011, 86.3 percent of college students felt overwhelmed in some way, and that over 50 percent were experiencing anxiety. Furthermore, one third of students felt so depressed that they couldn’t function normally. This only worsens when mixed with drugs and alcohol.
While Dr. Morgan reported that he thinks Fairfield University’s student population is slightly below the national median for mental illness and substance abuse, the Jeanne Clery Campus Crime report states that in 2010, there were a combined total of 1,383 disciplinary referrals for drug and alcohol violations at Fairfield University. These figures are only contributing to the increasing number of students who are in need of mental health help.
Birge commented on how important it is to have a licensed team of professionals working with students. “Years and years ago, there wasn’t counseling,” she said. “There were Jesuits.” She added that currently, it’s “as if the flood gates have opened,” as more and more people are seeking help.
“We had a 32 percent increase from last year here at Fairfield in the number of students being referred to psychiatrists off campus,” says Birge.
The counseling staff-to-student ratio at Fairfield University is about one to every 1,000-1,500 students, said Birge. She reported that the Counseling and Psychological Services boast 22 percent utilization rate among students.
While many students had good things to say about personnel at Counseling and Psychological services, others commented on ways in which they could improve.
“They should make themselves more known to students”, said Giovanna Giampa ’13, who explained that the counseling and psychological services reached out to her and others after the loss of close friend, the late Julia Sill.
“I didn’t even know that they were readily available,” she continued. “As a freshman and sophomore here at Fairfield I thought of the health center [where counseling and psychological services is located] as being far away, and never went. Students need to know that walk up there may be inconvenient, but it will make all the difference.”
Birge urges shy and ambivalent students to seek help, even if it seems minor. “Going to counseling doesn’t mean you’re crazy and psycho,” she said. “It means you want to improve the quality of your life.”