College is hard. For a typically high-achieving student at a university like Drexel, it can be much harder than anything that’s come before.
More than half of students experience anxiety, depression or another mental health issue while in college, said Annette Molyneux, PhD, Drexel’s associate dean of students responsible for counseling and health.
So if there’s a time when you feel overwhelmed, inadequate or out of hope, that doesn’t make you weak. It makes you normal. And Drexel offers resources that can help.
Whether you’re on the University City Campus or the Center City Campus, you can visit the University Counseling Center for free, totally confidential help. And you don’t even have to pick up the phone and make an appointment — you can just walk in.
The cold, dark winter season is the busiest one for the Counseling Center, so DrexelNow talked with Molyneux about mental health for college students and the help available for them right on campus. Molyneux, a licensed psychologist, oversees all of Drexel’s counseling and health services.
How common is it for college students to experience mental health issues that might be helped by counseling or other treatment?
It’s very common. It’s increasingly more common every year. That’s the phenomenon that’s experienced across the country. It’s not specific to Drexel at all.
For instance, 51 percent of college students reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety” within the last 12 months in a spring 2013 survey by the American College Health Association.
What kinds of mental health issues commonly occur among college students?
We see a very wide range of mental health issues. We have students who are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety or depression all the way through more significant mental health issues.
I think our greatest population is folks who are experiencing stress. They say, “I’m stressed out and overwhelmed.” It’s anything and everything: financial worries, family stressors, relationships both here and at home, academic difficulties or loss and grief.
Some students can be victims of their own success. They’ve been so competent in their various roles, whether it’s athlete or student or performer, and they get here and they’re in the mix with students equally capable. They can be quick to go from feeling competent to feeling totally incapable.
Why might students be hesitant to seek help when they’re struggling?
The stigma around getting help. A student might think, “Something must be terribly wrong with me if I have to go and get help.” They may feel that if they ask for help, it means they’re lazy, crazy, stupid or bad. If they’ve never experienced stress, they think there’s something that they’re not doing right. But that’s not true. Everyone experiences failure and stress. It’s OK. It’s part of life.
What would you tell someone who’s thinking about asking for help but isn’t sure about it?
Students will come in and say, “Everybody else is handling it.” But that’s not true. Their neighbor next door could be coming in the next hour and be saying exactly the same thing. It’s really OK to ask for help.
Sometimes students can feel like there’s no hope, like there’s nothing that can solve their problems. But there’s always an option. There’s always something. And counseling could be one of those options.
What resources are available for Drexel students who may be struggling with stress, anxiety or depression, or who just need someone to talk to?
There’s the Counseling Center. We have two locations, with a capable staff of psychologists and therapists. President Fry has given us a great deal of support.
We also have a peer counseling network, as well as Active Minds, a student group devoted to mental health awareness and breaking down the related stigma.
Academic advisers are also very supportive and helpful, and they’ll often refer students to us. Joining organizations on campus can also help students build friendships and a sense of belonging, which can be a great help. Residential Living staff are also excellent and really well-trained, and work hand-in-glove with Counseling. We also have a lot of very attentive faculty.