Fall doesn’t just mean pumpkin patches, pumpkin spice lattes and your favorite fall accessories. It means midterms and the end of the semester are fast approaching. With the immense pressure of making sure to get that A or B in every class, we spend numerous hours in the library with our nose in a book or struggling to type up that midterm paper. In the midst of all the stress, we lose track of our own well-being and mental health to achieve our idea of perfection.
According to a recent survey, nearly 66% of student affairs administrators addressed that mental health was the top concern for universities. A 2014 report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, indicated that college enrollment increased from 5.6% between 2009 and 2015. However, the number of students seeking mental health services increased by 29.6%, and the number of students who attended their appointments increased to 38.4%.
Attending a university such as George Mason, we notice that our student population is one of the most diverse in the country. Many students come from low-income backgrounds. The majority of our student body is comprised of minority groups and members of the LGBTQ commununity- that means students have a variety of very diverse needs.
Due to the decrease of the stigma surrounding mental health, the demand for mental health services has steadily increased. With Mason being a very large institution, we need to ensure that our administrators do all they can to provide us with the mental health services that we need by advocating for ourselves, our health and well-being. However, let us not be naive to think these services come cheap, mental health services are rather expensive, which is part of the reason that we don’t speak up and so many of us suffer in silence. Despite this, there are ways to make sure these services are still provided to those who need them.
Peer counselors are a helpful way for us to open up about our issues to someone who will be able to sympathize and empathize. We have seen the success of peer groups in the AA programs for substance use disorders and in support groups for emotional and behavioral problems. Also, mental health services should be ACCESSIBLE and AFFORDABLE. Students, faculty and staff alike, we should all know how to be able to seek help on and off campus. Our university website could be a good source for all the information about the various services, providers and coverage provided by insurance companies.
We, in partnership with our administrators need to begin to establish task forces and committees to look at the everyday challenges that we as college students face that can impact our mental health and wellbeing. On these task forces and committees, there needs to be in-depth reviews of the resources available to help us be able to cope with and manage our mental health.
Now, I am not saying my suggestions are just going to magically fix everything and we are going to have counseling set up around campus in within weeks. I am saying that if we begin to work in collaboration with each other and our administrators to effectively initiate and promote these steps, then there is no doubt in my mind that we won’t be successful. We can start a major cultural change on not only our campus, but campuses all across the country (some schools are already ahead of the game). This new culture change can begin to open up dialogue about mental health, well-being and the ways we can seek help. We could help save lives, and in the words of my television bae Derek Shepherd, “It is a good day to save lives”, and who doesn’t want to impact change and help as many people as they can?
Lastly, please know, it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to admit that you are hurting and in pain, but please seek professional help as soon as you are able.