By: Jae Webb, Student Life Case Manager and Jill Yashinsky-Wortman, Assistant Director for Case Management and Student Conduct
Ask any college student what they think of college and responses will typically always include, statements like “It’s fun,” “I love campus,” and “It’s stressful.” In today’s college environment, it has become normal that students feel some level of stress. Students often feel pressure to excel. This pressure may be something students are putting on themselves, but it can also be something they feel from family, peers, and faculty.
Many of these challenges may not be new to this generation of students, but are new to your student as he she is now away from home. For the first time your student must face these things independent of the support structures that existed in the comforts of home. For some students, the stresses of college are made more challenging by mental health conditions, those that were previously diagnosed or are just emerging.
A study from 2011 found that approximately one third of all college students are seeking help for struggles with mental health. The study addressed such topics as depression, substance use, eating concerns, violence, anxiety, and feelings of panic and fear.
A more recent study by the National Alliance on Mental Health, released in 2012, found that almost two thirds of the students that leave higher education early while dealing with mental health issues report those struggles as the determining factor in why they left. These same students also identified numerous things that could have helped them stay in school. Below we list some of the factors (in bold) students in this study felt could have helped them stay in school and what resources Gonzaga has to help students who may find themselves in similar situations:
- Receiving accommodations (e.g., tutoring, books on tape, lower course loads, help with communicating their needs to professors or online classes). At Gonzaga, the DREAM office (Disability Resource Education Access and Management) office works with any accommodations for medical conditions that may impact a student’s educational experience. Any student who may be experiencing a medical situation that is impacting their education is encouraged to work with the DREAM Office. Visit DREAM’s website at www.gonzaga.edu/DREAM.
- Accessing mental health services and supports on campus to help them address mental health issues impacting their academic performance. Gonzaga’s Counseling Center and Health Center are available to help students address any mental health concerns and get students connected to providers on and off campus who can provide support and care for the student.
- Connecting with mental health providers earlier. Anecdotally, we often see this as a huge asset to students. Many students have practitioners they have been working with before they come to college. If those practitioners were someone they met with on a regular basis, they should establish practitioners in Spokane who can provide the same support and services for them. The students who seem to transition the best are those who have their support mechanisms in place right away. Those students who wait until they are in crisis to establish these practitioners often struggle significantly more. If your student had a practitioner at home, we recommend you get one here. Your home practitioner may be able to give you a referral to someone with a similar approach or style. Our Counseling Center, Health Center or DREAM offices may also be able to point you toward resources in the Spokane area.
As we work to supportive measures to help these students persist in completing their education and preparing for the world, we want parents to be aware of things they can do for their student as well.
- Be in contact with your student specifically on the topic of how they are handling the stress of college life. This includes classes, social life, roommate relationships, extracurricular activities, eating habits, substance use, and sleeping habits. If you start to notice something concerning about your student, have an honest conversation. Tell you student why you are concerned. If you are still seeing concerning behaviors, reach out to the Gonzaga Student Life Office (509-313-4100) so one of our staff can touch base with your student and offer support.
- Encourage your student to seek help and support early on. Often we find that students are experts at flying under the radar for far too long. Many of these cases where students decide to leave could have potentially been prevented if the student had gotten help sooner.
- Help your student find the right pace for her or his life. We often tell students that they can do anything, but they cannot do everything. Help your student consider which experiences will be the most meaningful for him or her and choose to engage fully in those, rather than sampling everything half-heartedly.
- Ultimately you know your student better than anyone else. Be aware. Be supportive. Be proactive.
Here are a list of some of the Gonzaga offices referenced in the article and what services they can provide to students. We encourage your student to get connected and reach out for support. These offices also have great connections in the local community and will be able to refer your student to off campus support as well.
|Office Name||Contact Info|
|Student Life Office(Case Managers)||509-313-4100
Below are some external resources to give you more insights, as well as some of the studies from recent years. Be comforted in knowing that if your student is struggling, he or she is not alone. There are many resources both at Gonzaga and in the local community to help.