USC often shows great concern for the well-being of its students, but the university seems to have focused mainly on physical health and neglected to consider students’ mental health, which has been a growing concern at colleges across the United States.
According to “The American Freshman: National Norms” Fall 2010 annual survey, freshmen emotional health has fallen to a 25-year low, with an almost unprecedented number of students reporting that they are “below average” in emotional health and “overwhelmed” by stress. And as students near graduation, stress levels only increase.
Sometimes, tragic events prompt students to seek personal counseling from USC. The mental health of students, however, should not be reserved for these instances.
On a daily basis, students are subjected to a crushing load of stresses, be it from academics and career hunting to extracurricular obligations and personal life concerns.
A four-chapter chemistry midterm tomorrow conveniently coincides with the due date for an eight-page WRIT 140 paper. Your significant other’s surprise birthday dinner occurs the night before a huge blood drive you are in charge of organizing.
And before you even have time to catch your breath, it’s finals week and crunch time again. According to an Associated Press and mtvU study in 2009, 85 percent of college students reported feeling stressed on a daily basis.
As Jackie Ayers, former president of the American College Health Association, noted, “Some of the most common mental health problems we see on our campus these days are depression, stress/anxiety disorders, relationship issues, alcohol and drug use, [and]sleep difficulties.”
While USC’s reputation has improved, so has the numbers of students stressed about grades. Stress over academics compounds into intrapersonal stress and self esteem issues, such as feeling out of your league and fearing failure.
Following the highly publicized suicides at Cornell University in March 2010, many universities have taken measures to increase mental health awareness.
USC Student Counseling Services has its own network of mental health sessions, including both individual and targeted group counseling focused on areas such as “Peace with Food and Body Esteem” and “Attention Deficit Disorder Support.”
Although individual counseling does seek to address students’ concerns, it remains stigmatized and is not seen as a viable option for many students who feel as though they “don’t need a shrink.”
The university should implement more subtle means of stress relief methods throughout the year, not just during finals week.
The University of Missouri created the Stressbuster program, which trains students to give massages and help each other decompress.
Other universities hand out pamphlets with stress-relieving tips and have free yoga classes out on the grass or “Stress-Free Week” filled with bounce houses and breathing exercises.
Sigma Delta Alpha, a Latino interest fraternity at USC, brought puppies for students to play with during last semester’s finals week. Simpler gestures spaced throughout can make a meaningful difference.
Hopefully, we can re-prioritize the mental well-being of USC students.
Rebecca Gao is a freshman majoring in global health and biological sciences. Her column, “Trojan Grounds,” runs Mondays.