By Margarita Artoglou and Kristen Santer
Going to college presents a huge shift in a student’s life. It often brings with it a radical change in a student’s physical environment, academic schedule and social life. This kind of adjustment can easily become stress and anxiety-inducing for students, necessitating the involvement of outside sources of emotional and mental support.
However, receiving support and counseling is more difficult in college than it was in high school. In most high schools, there is consistent support from teachers, administrators and counselors, and at home, many students can also receive support and assurance from their family. College is a drastic change from that. Students are expected to be responsible for themselves, and the same sort of support is not easily accessible. If you need help from a teacher or a counselor, you need to specifically seek out that kind of assistance. Unless you live 30 minutes away, your family cannot not be there for you all of the time. Creating a mandatory counseling program for college students would help the transition into college, while ensuring that no one slips through the cracks.
Although self-diagnosing is popular and occurs too often, many students most likely need some sort of counseling and do not realize it. A 2012 survey by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) found that 64 percent of students dropped out because of a mental health problem, but only 50 percent of them had reported it to the school. When students drop out because of mental health problems, it is usually a result of inadequate services, making students feel the need to go home in order to receive support from their family. If there were mandatory student counseling services, colleges could manage these factors before they result in drop-outs or even more drastic decisions.
While it is great that schools inform students so that they know their options, it takes an incredible amount of proactivity on the part of the student to actually make an appointment with a psychological counselor.
Making an appointment for psychological counseling is more of a burden than just picking up the phone. In order for a student to get counseling, a student must recognize some kind of problem within him or herself. This is an incredibly imposing accomplishment, especially given the stigma that surrounds all kinds of mental health disorders.
College tends to be a source of stress for students who are facing an increasingly competitive job market and increasingly large student loans to pay off. It would be easy for a student who actually has a psychological issue to confuse his or her symptoms for side-effects of that added stress. This is why it would be a good idea to implement a program that makes it necessary for every student to check in with a counselor at least once a year. If the student is going through more than just pre-midterm jitters, a counselor could recognize that and recommend further therapy or counseling.
Some might argue that colleges should not be expected to expend resources on preemptive counseling for students who do not need it. However, it is a worthwhile investment if it helps even one student who may be driven to extreme actions if left to his or her own devices. Having just one counseling session a year is not a huge expenditure and will allow colleges to check up on their students and make sure that their workload is manageable.
Although colleges are not expected to baby their students, they still allocate funds to guarantee students’ physical safety and health. The same mentality should be applied to students’ mental well-being.