Going to college can bring a lot of stress into students’ lives and disrupt their schedules. While some consequences of school-related stress can be minor, others may significantly harm students’ mental health.
The Counseling Center at Roosevelt University seeks to provide help to students who struggle psychologically.
Kusha Murarka, assistant director of outreach services at the Counseling Center, said college can be an especially stressful experience for freshmen.
“A lot of students will come to see us when they are adjusting to college, many first-year students or people who are returning to school after a long time,” Murarka said. “There is a lot of stress associated with the demands of classes and pressure to do well in your classes.”
Murarka said many students struggle with time management, which often leads to poor performance in classes and can affect their relationships with other people.
“We often talk to students about how to better time manage, how to get their studying done, when do they make time for it, how do they carve out that time,” Murarka said. “And when they are feeling very stressed or they feel like one class is harder than another, how can you prioritize the studying that you need to do.”
Murarka added that a lot of students associate academic performance with their self-esteem.
“There is a lot of competition,” Murarka explained. “You see other students doing certain things or achieving certain goals. There are a lot of confidence issues related to that. And then, generally, lots of different majors have different demands, so we are often talking about how can they manage their confidence, how can they stay positive.”
Apart from affecting self-confidence, school may take away time from family and friends. Murarka said balancing time between socialization and studying can be problematic for some students.
“A big part of adjusting to college is relationships: romantic relationships might be part of their experience, meeting new people, trying to develop intimate relationships,” Murarka added. “There are a lot of adjustments with those kinds of things, and we will often hear about stress and tension related to some conflict with relationships in their lives: roommates, friends, romantic partners, family members, even sometimes faculty. Students may not agree with how things are being taught or the ways in which they are having to perform.”
Some students may try to resolve the stress issue on their own. According to Murarka, students make a mistake when they resort to substances because by doing so, they only exacerbate the problem.
“There are a lot things that come into play, and you will see it manifest in the form of depression, anxiety, relationship stress, mood issues, irritability,” Murarka said. “Sometimes, we also see students who are abusing substances like alcohol and other drugs … They may feel like they need to use more and more to feel good or to feel the effect of it, and that leads to some dangerous risky behaviors.”
Weather is another factor that can cause behavioral abnormalities. In this case, students may not realize that they are being affected by the change of seasons.
“Oftentimes, people will notice some changes and it may be related to seasonal effective disorder, which is actually a mood disorder that is connected with the season change, and again, it has to do with the light and some of those biological needs that we have for light,” Murarka said.
“As human beings, we are really attracted to light, and we benefit from the direct sunlight and seeing it: be it light outside, natural light. That changes in the fall time,” Murarka said.
The change of seasons also impacts such an important element of mood as exercise. As it gets colder outside, many people become less active and tend to spend more time indoors.
“Exercise is a big component of mood and making sure that your mood is stable,” Murarka said. “If we are not exercising, if we are not being active, then maybe our moods are more depressed or there might be more worries or just kind of that adrenaline is not helping us. It’s more of anxiety and sadness that can come.”
Murarka said those students who need psychological help are welcome to the Counseling Center at any time but should make sure their symptoms don’t progress if they decide to tackle stress on their own.
“Students can come at any point,” Murarka said. “If they are starting to feel like something is not right, that might be a good time to come. Or if it’s been happening for a month or two months, that’s when you want to seek help and start talking about what has been going on.”
Students who want to get help from the Counseling Center can schedule an individual appointment or walk in the center’s office during consultation time Monday through Wednesday from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and talk to any available counselor.
Intake appointments provide students the opportunity to fill out paperwork about their mental health and meet with counselors for about an hour of consultation.
This fall, the Counseling Center will launch a series of workshops that provide psychological help and mentor students on how to manage their time, cope with stress and do well in classes at the same time. “Check Up from the Neck Up” is the screening day that will take place Sept. 17 in WB 418.
“That’s a time when students can come by and take a quick survey of their symptoms and then meet with the counselor for about five minutes to go over what is going on, if they have noticed any changes and those kinds of things,” Murarka said.
She admitted that many Roosevelt students take advantage of the Counseling Center, but some are are still reluctant when it comes to asking for help.
“There is always some fear and kind of anxiety about seeking help and asking for help,” Murarka said. “It’s a little different than maybe going to a doctor, but we think of it as, you need to check not only your physical health, but your mental health, as well. We are definitely advocates for making that a priority.”
Murarka said she has been at the university for the last five years. As a part of her role, she tries to reach out to as many students as possible through different channels to let them know about the free service the Counseling Center provides. She said the center has seen an increase in students who were asking for help for the last few years.
“We have got more presence online with the website and our Facebook page,” Murarka said. “We do a newsletter every semester, so that we are addressing some of the topics that are important to students.”
The Counseling Center provides limited individual sessions and weekly group counseling where students can bring up a variety of issues. Murarka said there is a diverse range of students who come to center.
“I can say that in terms of diversity, the range of students that represents the population of students here in terms of age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, we are seeing all those groups represented at the same rate that they are in the university,” Murarka said. “That’s nice to know that we are definitely serving the population that is here and it’s not skewed necessarily one way or the other.”
-Change in appetite
-Changes in behavioral patterns
Counseling Center is located in room 470 of the Auditorium Building.