Evelyn Z. Avilés-Davis, Bilingual Counselor/Professor & Imelda Koehler, Bilingual Counselor

Our years in college tend to be one of the most exciting times in our lives. And yet, college years can be confusing moments when students are faced with making important career decisions, learning more about themselves, adjusting to a new learning environment, and managing relationships and family expectations. All these variables leave our students more vulnerable to experiencing stress and, in many cases, anxiety and depression. 

According to a Healthy Minds Study during the 2020-2021 academic year, more than 60% of college students from 373 campuses nationwide met the criteria for at least one mental health problem. According to the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment Spring 2022 Executive Summary, another study that used the Kessler 6 (K6) Non-Specific Psychological Distress Scores (Range is 0-24) found that over 70% of the students participating reported moderate to serious psychological distress. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of students coming to Waubonsee in need of mental health services was already alarming. Today, our students are also facing the losses the pandemic left behind. The loss of friends, family members, jobs, and the old "normal." Added to this is the fear of judgment due to the stigma our society holds on mental health, making dealing with all of this that much harder. It is unsurprising to counselors when students report feeling overwhelmed and are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep difficulties. A lot of times, these reasons force students to drop out of college. 

The State of Higher Education 2023, published by Gallup, Inc., reported that almost six in 10 unenrolled adults are not enrolled due to emotional stress (30%) and personal mental health reasons (28%). We can see how mental health issues are impacting student retention. Higher education professionals and trained counselors in higher education need to be prepared to address these challenges to keep students in college. 

Mental health difficulties can impact a person's energy level, concentration, and ability to learn. For example, we observe in our classrooms how depression and anxiety can also affect the students' productivity and engagement. College students might feel discouraged, thinking, "How am I going to finish college?" 

According to Suicide Prevention Resource Center, higher education professionals are also facing suicide and suicidal thoughts among students. These take a toll on peers and faculty because they are also experiencing the grief of students' suicides and suicidal behavior on campus. No one means harm to our loved ones; we just, at times, are not equipped to deal with the unknown. Being open to learning more about mental health and encouraging open conversations will allow for a better support system.      

Practice proper self-care, eat healthily, go on walks, meditate, and do what nourishes your mind and body. Do not minimize your own needs; it is not selfish. Reach out for help when needed. We are here to help you succeed.

Pictured above: Evelyn Z. Avilés-Davis, Bilingual Counselor/Professor and Imelda Koehler, Bilingual Counselor

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