– Representatives from Counseling Services address student mental health concerns.PHOTO: Health, Wellness and Counseling Center at UMSL. The Current 2012 ©
By Albert Nall, Staff Writer, and Heather Welborn, Features Editor for The Current
Representatives from the University Health, Wellness and Counseling Services responded to student questions regarding a variety of mental health issues last Thursday. The table staffed by Counseling Services was on the 2nd floor of the Millennium Student Center outside the U Student radio station. Free information was dispersed on depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder to all members of the University of Missouri—St. Louis community.
Information supplied by Rebecca Paster, the Communications Coordinator of the Public Policy Research Center at UMSL, presented the initial purpose of the event as providing a free screening for those at risk for mental health disorders. According to Christopher Sullivan, a counselor at Health and Wellness Services, the objective had changed. “We are now doing something more about general awareness with regards to mental health issues and concerns,” Sullivan said. “We will not be doing the screenings, but will have staff available to talk about counseling and to answer general questions about mental health.”
Sullivan stressed the importance of mental health education at the event. “We want to increase the awareness and concerns going on in regards to mental health, as well as address the university community on the resources we have on campus for those in crisis.” Sullivan said.
A common mental health issue students grapple with is testing anxiety. Test anxiety is defined as general feelings of worry and terror, self-depreciating thoughts and unease that only occur during exams. The reactions to testing situations can hugely hinder an affected student’s academic performance. Testing anxiety also has adverse effects on a student’s social and emotional well being. Specifically, decreased feelings of self-esteem and academic confidence are commonly reported. Studies by academic scholars state that between 25 to 40 percent of students experience test anxiety.
Information from the Iona College Counseling Center cites that students suffering from testing anxiety will often indicate physiological, behavioral, and emotional imbalance. Other signs of stress include being obsessed with an upsetting event or negative thoughts. If not properly managed, stress can lead to harmful habits. Scientific studies have shown the link between stress levels and rates of smoking and substance abuse. Additional problems reported by anxiety sufferers include an inability to develop positive relationships and poor academic performance. Stress like anxiety and fear can cause students to forgo extracurricular involvement as well.
From depression to suicidal thoughts, the goal of mental health awareness is to help those in the academic community learn how to help a person in crisis. If you or somebody you know is in a crisis of some sort, confidential online screening is available. For more information about this and other services provided by University Health and Wellness and Counseling Services, contact (314) 516-5711.
© The Current 2013