“Invisible diseases” of mental health frequent problem for students

Ask any college student and they will say that getting a higher education comes with a higher level of stress. A survey conducted by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) in 2012 reported that 64% of college students who dropped out did so because of a mental health issue. In addition, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) stated “in 2011, the American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment (ACHA–NCHA)—a nationwide survey of college students at two- and four-year institutions—found that about 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” in the past year.”

Anxiety disorders and depression are two of the most common mental health issues in college, and many students might not realize that they are sufferers. Some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression include trouble sleeping, sleeping too much, nervousness, irritability, issues with appetite, cognitive issues (such as trouble remembering information), and anxiousness.  From a medical standpoint, there is no clearly defined reason for depression or anxiety; the circumstances vary from person to person. What is stressful for one person may be relaxing for another. This can be clearly seen when looking at a phenomenon known as library anxiety.

Library Anxiety, first written about in ‘Library Anxiety: A Grounded Theory and Its Development’ by Constance Mellon in the College and Research Libraries journal in 1986, describes and explains the anxiety students feel about using campus libraries or libraries in general. In the article, many of the students equated their fear of the library to its size. Many said that because it was so large they did not know where to start looking for what they needed. Now there are computer systems that aid in the finding process, but when the article was published, libraries had few, if any, computers. One of the students in the study said that, “I was scared to ask questions. I did not want to bother anyone. I also didn’t want them to think I was stupid.” The discovery of this phenomenon brought a new focus to mental health among students.

Even on a smaller campus Washington State University Vancouver, there can be many causes of anxiety. For Sean Philbrook, currently a junior, beginning his education at WSU Vancouver was not without anxiety. “I was most anxious about asking questions in class because I felt as though everything I wanted to ask would have sounded incredibly naïve. Yet I quickly learned that many of my classmates were in the same boat as me and I got over it!”

There are some simple ways to relieve anxiety. Exercise is the most popular. “When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain… [and] trigger a positive feeling in the body.” This chemical reaction is known as “runner’s high.” Other students prefer to relieve stress by writing about what is causing their stress and how it makes them feel, or spending time doing things they enjoy.

For students dealing with anxiety or depression, professional counseling services are available at WSU Vancouver in VMMC rooms 24, 28, and 30. Call (360) 546-9238 to schedule an appointment, or visit studentaffairs.vancouver.wsu.edu/counseling-services for more information.

Ellie Ficco, a junior in the biology program, studies in the campus library.

Ellie Ficco, a junior in the biology program, studies in the campus library.










Photo Credit: Sarah Thurman


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