Christal Helvering, director of Counseling Services at Anderson University since 2008, discussed student mental health on campus. She has noticed an increase in students seeking mental health services here at AU.
“In each of the last two years, Counseling Services has serviced 20 percent of the undergraduate students,” said Helvering. “While the reasons for this are not entirely clear, it’s safe to say that this is due to a combination of at least two factors.
“More students are arriving on campus with mental health concerns than in the past, and there seems to be a reduction in the stigma that was previously associated with seeking mental health counseling. In short, students are arriving more distressed than before, and they are more open to seeking treatment.”
Counseling services have seen a large change in the severity of issues they are treating. It seems that anxiety and depression are two factors that have become more prevalent.
“In addition to this increase in severity, many students seem to have more difficulty tolerating distress and a good number lack the skills needed to experience healthy relationships.” Helvering said.
AU’s Counseling Services strives to provide students who are struggling or who have a desire to make healthy changes with a safe, confidential place on campus to receive additional support and guidance at no cost. Their mission is to help students attain physical, emotional, spiritual and relational health. Counseling Services encompasses a student-oriented philosophy.
“This counseling relationship allows for a collaborative team approach within a caring and nurturing environment where goals are identified to move the student towards feeling better and completing the tasks that are necessary to accomplish their specific treatment goals,” said Helvering.
As a student on campus, there are ways to be proactive in becoming mentally, physically and emotionally healthy.
“One of the most helpful initial bits of information that any distressed student needs to hear is that they are not alone, and they are not crazy,” Helvering said. “We probably all live on the same spectrum of symptoms and concerns, some of us just experience those things a little more intensely. No one needs to suffer alone.”
Helvering recalls the words of David Augsburger: “Being heard is so close to being loved that, for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”
“This is important to remember for all students who see a friend in need,” Helvering said.
Dean Chris Confer has noticed the same trends in student mental health.
“The majority of students are mentally healthy,” he said. “This is a small segment of campus that is continuing to grow over the years. Some of the mental health concerns continue to increase. I would say depression, anxiety and suicide are the three most consistent things that are increasing over the last several years in the student population.”
Confer also points out the positive aspects of the increase in student engagement with Counseling Services.
“One of the beauties that we don’t talk about in the mental health field is that people are willing to seek out counseling and help,” he said. “That is a huge part of the battle within our campus. I believe we have faculty, staff and other students who desperately care for our student body.
“I am also thankful for the president and this cabinet and that they see and are willing to fund the counseling problem here. If you are at a state school, you typically would pay your own way. You might get a session or two for free, but it is expensive.”
Counseling Services offers some additional resources outside of appointments that can provide you with helpful tips.
“There’s a great website that talks about issues Counseling Services sees regularly and support pages for those specific things in hopes that students will empower themselves and see things they could do proactively like sleeping, eating healthy and getting outside.” Confer said.
Confer also believes it is possible for us to help each other.
“I think recommending exercising together, encouraging healthy well-being and advocating sleep can help,” he said. “I think the other thing is to encourage friends to limit social media influence.”
Confer emphasizes the need for help because of some struggles his family has experienced.
“I have family that struggles with mental health and I dearly and deeply love them,” he said. “For some of them, it meant professional help to get through the things that they’ve dealt with.”
Any student wanting to make an appointment can go to the Morrison House during office hours to get signed up. They are open during the school year, weekdays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. They are closed during the Chapel hour from 11 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Student counseling services can be contacted at (765) 641-4203 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The Morrison House is located in front of Myers Hall on College Avenue and across from the Valley.