Mental health concerns disproportionately affect college-aged individuals. According to data from the American College Health Association and the University of California, Berkeley, 55 percent of college students reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety” in 2014, but only 9.5 percent of college students accessed their university counseling services in the same year. This statistic shows an alarming trend: university students are not getting the help they need for their mental health concerns.
While Kansas State provides robust counseling services, many students may not know how to use them or what to expect. Kyle Hampel, junior in English, and Jakki Forester, graduate student in communication studies, hope to shed some light on what K-State’s Counseling Services offers through their own lived experiences with mental health concerns and seeking help when needed.
The undergraduate experience
I had only been in college for a few months when I had my first thoughts of suicide. It only lasted for a few seconds during a 30-minute-long panic attack, but it was enough to convince me that I needed help, and fast.
Going from high school to college can be a stressful transition. But it was especially bad for an introvert like me. I felt lost, unsupported and lonely. I felt like I was lacking in all of my relationships with the people around me.
I was letting a nagging voice in my head tell me I did not belong. When that voice told me to kill myself, enough was enough.
K-State Counseling Services seemed like the best option for my situation, and I do not regret going to them for help as soon as possible.
After completing a survey about what my concerns were, I was assigned a therapist. I began going to hourlong therapy sessions every week.
Immediately, one of my favorite things about K-State Counseling Services was that you do not have to worry about the cost. The first four counseling sessions are completely free. After that, the cost per session is much lower than it would be at other mental health facilities, especially without health insurance coverage.
Cost was not the only benefit, of course. While my progress was slow, I did notice an immediate difference in my mood and outlook. Even though it would take a while for my life circumstances to change, talking to someone who was listening and giving professional advice helped me make the best of a bad situation.
Ultimately, after nearly half a year in counseling, I ended my therapy sessions on my own terms. I still struggle with my chronic depression, but K-State Counseling Services gave me advice and techniques for keeping my personal demons in check.
The most important thing I learned in college is that mental health is not something that should be ignored or taken lightly. If you need someone to talk to, please call K-State Counseling Services at 785-532-6927 and make an appointment.
The graduate experience
Having experienced my undergraduate career at K-State, I thought I could handle graduate school at the same institution with ease and grace. I knew what resources I had available to me. I had a network of people. I thought I knew what I was in for.
In all actuality, I had no idea. My mental health tanked almost as soon as I began graduate school. Life, school and relationships with others were all completely different from what I experienced as an undergraduate.
Graduate school is one of the most isolating experiences while being constantly surrounded by people. I was thrown into this immersive experience in a completely new environment with completely new people with a short time to get to know the others I was in a cohort with. I struggled with learning who I could or could not trust with personal struggles, especially related to mental health.
I continued to feel more and more alone. Although graduate school is an isolating experience, I also further isolated myself. I became clinically depressed again. I do not mean sad. I mean when I was not on campus in class as a student or teaching, I was at home sleeping so I did not have to be awake to cope with my depression.
A part of my assistantship for graduate school is also teaching. I have taught for the past three semesters, and the anxiety I feel standing in front of a room of students has never lessened. I constantly worry about that students are judging how effective I am as an instructor, what I am wearing, how I lecture and even the tone of my voice, among other things. This anxiety becomes exponentially higher and is exacerbated when I read the feedback on teacher evaluations.
Through these experiences though, I have reached out to some of the resources I knew about on campus and through the university. I have met with doctors at Lafene Health Center multiple times to have conversations and find solutions for some of these concerns from a medical perspective.
I have also been in and out of K-State Counseling Services my entire time at K-State. When I was an undergraduate, I experienced traumas I needed to work through immediately. Then after I completed my undergraduate degrees, I sought out help again due to another large-scale loss that occurred in my life. I recently went back to K-State Counseling Services to continue to work through traumas I have experienced.
No matter what age you are, how short or long you have been in college, if you are struggling with your mental health, even if you never have before in your life, seek help. There is nothing worse than trying to stay afloat while you are continually just being pulled down. You are not alone in your struggles. Do not try to push through those struggles alone. There are people to help who are willing to help. Seek help.
Kyle Hampel is a junior in English. Jakki Forester is a graduate student in communication studies. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to [email protected]