New Year Should Bring New Focus on Mental Health
The start of a new year can be stressful. The optimism of New Year’s resolutions can quickly turn into frustration and disappointment if those goals are not achieved. Winter weather can bring on seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. And college students heading back to the classroom can feel the pressure of finishing the academic year strong. In fact, according to The National Alliance on Mental Illness, 80 percent of college students report feeling overwhelmed, and 45 percent report feeling hopeless.
Those striking statistics come as no surprise to the members of Waubonsee’s Counseling and Student Support Department. We understand that troubles in the classroom often stem from problems outside of it, and that’s why we offer free one-on-one, confidential personal counseling to all of our enrolled students. During these sessions, students can open up about stress, anxiety, family issues or other personal concerns that may be keeping them from reaching their educational and life goals.
We realize, however, that students can experience anxiety and other mental health issues any time day or night, even when Waubonsee is closed. That’s why, this fall, the college partnered with the Aurora-based Association for Individual Development (AID) to offer a 24/7 Waubonsee Talk Line. AID-trained professionals staff the line, referring callers to local support services for a range of issues, including depression, addiction, domestic violence, financial difficulties, medical care, veterans support, child and elder care, legal services, and family and relationship issues.
Of course, the Internet is also available 24/7, and there are some useful sites that can provide help with certain issues. Two of the most popular are halfofus.com, where students and popular musicians share their stories of mental health, and ULifeline.org, where users can take a confidential screening and locate additional resources.
Waubonsee is proud to offer access and referrals to these and other resources, and we encourage students to take advantage of them and better understand the importance of their own mental health. To that end, Counseling designates a few days each February as Mental Health Awareness Days. This year, events will run Feb. 23-25 and will include free, confidential depression screenings, stress relief tips, and addiction-related programs, such as a “field sobriety goggles” activity to demonstrate the dangers of drinking and driving.
Another highlight of the week is the annual Community Resource Fair, which brings a variety of social service agencies to campus to share information. One such agency, Mutual Ground of Aurora, is a frequent visitor to campus, assisting students and community members with domestic and sexual violence concerns. Additionally, a presentation on “Coping with Anxiety” will be offered by Kelly LaPorte, Clinical Director of the Naperville Counseling Center.
During this time of year, as many people focus on improving their physical health, I encourage you to dedicate yourself to improving your mental health as well. Whether it’s making sure you have a go-to stress-relieving activity, or getting help for a more serious issue, it’s worth the effort. For more information on Mental Health Awareness Days or the Waubonsee Talk Line, call Waubonsee’s Counseling Department at (630) 466-2951.
Kelli Sinclair is the Dean for Counseling and Student Support at Waubonsee.