Peter Caty/the Mirror

Feeling alone? Depressed? Or do you just need someone to talk to, to listen to what you have to say, your worries, fears, or concerns?

You’re not alone – As it stands, 25.4 percent of the undergraduate body at Fairfield has utilized services. This statistic shows an all-time high, and an increase of 16.4 percent from last year. There has been such a notable increase in usage that a new trailer has been added to the current facilities, located in Dolan Hall, in the corner of campus by the Townhouses and behind the Field Hockey field.

According to Dr. Susan Birge, Assisant V.P. and Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, the increase may be due to several factors. “The stigma that once existed about ‘getting help’ or seeking counseling seems to be significantly less. Most students get it that seeking help makes sense,” she says.

Another factor, according to Dr. Birge, is the age demographic. “Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder usually emerge between 18-25 year olds; couple that with the stress of academics and independent living, and it’s understandable why college counseling centers are all seeing an increase in students using services.”

According to the Healthy Minds Study, a multicenter organization headed by Dr. Daniel Eisenberg of the University of Michigan, finds that “over 90 percent of college counseling services [see an increase in usage],” and more importantly, that 15 percent of college students have been diagnosed with depression in 2007, up by ten percent in 2007, just seven years prior.

Another surprising statistic is the number of students seeking help in regards to their social life, namely the aspects of Fairfield that take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at the Townhouses and the Beach. The number of students meeting with Kevin Curry, a substance abuse counselor, has doubled since last year. This trend shows that Stags perhaps are more apt to look for help to curb potentially hazardous behavior, particularly alcohol and drug abuse.

However, Dr. Birge says that some of these students “may not want to stop their drinking and/or drug use, but are looking for ways to regain some control – to make healthier choices and drink less.” Utilization of these services, it seems, is a practice that fosters understanding of the college life, one that all too often revolves around drinking and partying out of moderation – Counseling and Psychological Services may provide the means to get out-of-control partying within a more manageable level.

Who uses Counseling and Psychological services? Although numbers and specifics are confidential, the most common utilization was among juniors, students of the College of Arts and Sciences (if you’ve ever met a Biology/Pre-Med major, this clearly comes as no surprise) and women.

The most common problems/symptoms, says Dr. Birge, are anxiety, depression, relationship issues, adjustment, substance abuse, behavioral and family issues.

For students suffering immediate crises, there exists a program that a counselor is available by a call. Last year, in the school year of 2009-10, 39 students used what is called “in-acute-emotional distress”.

For more informal meetings, there is a satellite office in the lower level of Canisius Hall on Tuesday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon. No appointment is necessary – these meetings are walk-in.

Counseling and Psychological Services is located in Dolan Hall next to the Health Center. To make an appointment, students can call 203-245-4000, extension 2146, or email – or simply drop in any weekday between 3 and 4 p.m. to make an appointment.

This is Part One of a segment that David is writing concerning the psychological services offered at Fairfield University and how they can be best utilized by students. Please check back next week as he writes Stags Finding Solace Part II

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