A Look Behind Student Y
“It was hard for me to consider myself as someone who needed help, let alone admit I needed help.”
Student Y, a freshman in civil engineering who respectfully wishes to remain anonymous, said the panic attacks had been beyond personal control. She was caught between a demanding academic workload and life as a student-athlete, and it became very hard to find a time balance between the two.
“Eventually it would turn into either a crying fit or a fit where my body would shut itself down for up to an hour.”
The engineering workload at Florida Tech also lends itself to making things harder, said Student Y. Being exposed to new programs and ideas not typically exposed during high school or any time before that was “overwhelming.”
Given the subject matter, it was harder to articulate and process what was going on.
“I was scared someone was going to look at me differently or was going to think I was going to be a burden to them from now on because, the truth is, I could be anxious or very depressed.”
A few weeks after realizing there could be a problem, Student Y enrolled with Counseling and Psychological Services at Florida Tech.
The reality is that one in four people on college campuses is a Student Y — a person with a diagnosable mental illness or psychological issue.
The prevalence of mental health issues on college campuses continues to rise across the nation, including at Florida Tech.
The Holzer Student Health Center confirmed that they have new patients starting on antidepressants each week.
Statistically, any student may suffer from a mental health issue or some form of mental distress in their collegiate experience, according to an article by Marian University. The American Psychological Association said the most common of these disorders are depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, alcohol abuse, eating disorders and self-injury.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 80 percent of college students say they felt overwhelmed, and 45 percent felt as if they were hopeless. Seventy-three percent of students experienced some sort of psychological crisis on campus.
Thirty-one percent of college students say they felt so depressed in the last year, it was difficult to function, while 50 percent of students say their overwhelming anxiety is the biggest reason for not performing well academically.
The topic of suicide plays into mind as well, as it’s the third leading cause of death on college campuses. Seven percent of college students have “seriously considered suicide” in the past year.
Suffering from psychological issues comes as a double-challenge for any Student Y.
First, one undergoes immense physical, emotional and social disabilities. Second, they are faced with the negative judgments that stem from mistaken beliefs about mental illnesses, that lead to stereotyping and prejudice. This is known as stigma.
According to a study by the Government of Western Australia Health Commission, one out of four people coping with mental illness says that they’ve experienced an instance of stigma and feelings of shame, hopelessness, personal weakness and reluctance to seek help.
The concern of stigma is the number one reason why students feel discouraged to seek help. It is common that students are fearful for being labeled or judged by admitting they have a problem.
“It’s hard, because a lot of people don’t understand it,” said Student Y. “You get so caught up in your emotion in the moment that it’s really hard to focus on anything else.”
Sixty-four percent of college dropouts left due to a mental health-related reason according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness,
Diana Davis, a third-year in the psychology doctorate program, uses the example of insulting people on a level of mental health, such as calling them “crazy” or saying “you need help.”
“You truly never understand how much that person is suffering,” Davis said. “And so it’s important to recognize what’s ‘normal college stress’ and when that’s reaching a more significant level and when someone needs some help.”
Psychology doctorate student Mary Caitlin Fertitta thinks it’s all about starting the conversation. Fertitta is the secretary for Active Minds, a club with a mission to lower the stigma surrounding mental illness through education.
“It affects everybody on such a personal level, it’s hard to talk about and people think it can be embarrassing,” Fertitta said. “So we want to reduce the embarrassment, reduce the stigma and say it’s okay, it’s okay to struggle, and there are people here to help you.”
“There are resources here to help you and help reduce the length of it and potentially help make it better,” Davis said.
CAPS and the Holzer Health Center are available, and students are welcome to walk into the centers during business hours.
Student Y said CAPS has allowed a place to put everything out on the table.
“It definitely hasn’t fixed the problem, and I don’t know if it will get fixed in its entirety. But it’s definitely helped me find ways to cope with everything that’s been going on as far as how to handle it when I feel like I’m going to have an anxiety attack.”
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