First-year college student talks to mental health professional about trends, resources



College can be stressful — leaving home, living with strangers and deciding on a career are all daunting tasks.

There are a plethora of stressors including academic pressure, searching for the perfect internship and trying to make friends. It’s no surprise college students, especially freshman, can be stressed, anxious, or depressed.

“The life of a student is stressful. Lots of time is spent around other people and unlike in high school, you no longer have tons of time alone or separation,” said Dr. Bryana White, an identity-focused specialist and assistant director at Connecticut College’s Student Counseling Services.

She works with groups and individuals, providing general and targeted (for historically underrepresented and underserved student communities) psycho-educational outreach programming. White’s goal is to ensure programs and services reflect the needs and experiences of students and affirm their intersectional identities

Many college students feel overwhelmed by the amount of time spent in one space, struggling to separate different aspects of their lives and set boundaries. For students attending a school far from home, leaving campus is a rare occasion. Working and living in the same space, especially as certain activities remain online, leads to students feeling absent of a comfortable, safe space. 

This year, White says she has seen a greater demand for individual help.

“This is good because it shows people are looking for help in response to experiencing distress,” she explained. She believes this is due to a combination of factors — the pandemic, societal shifts, and a heightening of pre-existing conditions. 

“For some, college is the first time students are independent in a space and have access to care,” White added.

Students may have felt shame based on different stigmas or simply did not have access to care in their home community. Many may have experienced the belittling of serious illnesses in off-hand comments or in the trivialization of disorders like OCD. 

The potential for suicide, White says, also needs to be discussed because it is the second leading cause of death for college students.

“One in ten students has thought about dying,” White said. 

Young adults from 18 to their mid-twenties are also more likely to first experience the symptoms of mental illness, including depression. However, everyone needs access to mental health resources. 

White believes everyone needs a good self-care routine, including eating regularly and exercising. 

White recommends students keep a journal to track their well being over the semester. Students will then have a record of where they really struggled and when they were at their best. Talking with friends about these shifts can be helpful and make a student feel less isolated.

“In the face of distressing time, human beings are doing the thing humans do — being resilient,” White said. “It is about experiencing distress and in the face of that, giving ourselves credit for making it through.”

Sammi Bray is a first year student at Trinity College in Hartford. She is studying public policy and law, with a minor in rhetoric, writing and media studies. She has been freelancing for the Record-Journal since June. You can contact her at sammibray03@gmail.com



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