Monday, August 16, 2010

Back to school blues

It's that time of year again. Throughout Sonoma County (and across the nation) children, teens, and college students are heading back to the classroom. Many of the Sonoma County Peer Outreach Coalition's Peer Leaders are going back to school this week too. Things are about to get busy!
Some of you may be heading off to college for the first time. This is an exciting transition! For the first time you may be living away from home. Independence! Freedom! Partying! Before you get too excited, remember the reason you are going away to school is *ahem* school.

Despite all these feelings of excitement, going to college can stir up some emotions you may not be prepared for. Although college is an opportunity to meet lots of new people, sometimes students find that they are socially isolated and lonely. According to this recent article, mental health problems are on the rise among college students. The students who are most likely to seek counseling or other resources on campus are the ones who feel disconnected from peers or feel like they are not "fitting in" at the school.

According to the study by Hofstra University, "moderate to severe depression increased to 41 percent in 2009, compared to 34 percent in 1997 and 1998." Also, the study reported that impulsive behaviors (such as drinking, fighting, and stealing) were on the rise. The incidence of students exhibiting self-destructive behaviors (such as cutting or other forms of self-injury) doubled during the last decade.

But there is good news! According to the same study, student reports of suicidal thoughts were down by fifteen percent! It has been suggested that this is due to college student's increased access to on campus counseling and health services.

So if you are going away to college, where can you turn for support?
  • Your campus health center Check out your college health center. Most have access to counseling and mental health services.

  • Your friends Reach out to your classmates and friends. A phone call to a friend from high school who is attending a different school may boost your mood.

  • Your family There is nothing wrong with calling home to talk about how you are feeling! Also, if you have health insurance, your family might be able to help you locate a mental health professional under your insurance plan to help with the strong emotions you are dealing with

  • Your online social network There is a wealth of information on the internet. On Facebook, the Sonoma County Peer Outreach Coalition links to a variety of Facebook pages and websites about suicide prevention, depression, and anxiety. There are also numerous online resources dedicated to college students such as ULifeline. Right now you can also check out Psych Central which currently has a back-to-school mental health guide
Remember, it is completely normal to feel depressed and overwhelmed at times. Going to college for the first time is a life-changing experience. If you feel like your enjoyment of this exciting time in your life is being overshadowed by feelings of sadness or hopelessness, then please make an appointment with you campus health center. There is nothing wrong with seeking help for depression or anxiety symptoms. As you can tell by these articles, students are making the choice to get help more frequently.

The Sonoma County Peer Outreach Coalition frequently uses the saying "Got Mental Health?" Take care of your body, take care of your mind, and when we ask you if you've got mental health you can say proudly, "Why yes, I do!"

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