Local mental health professionals discussed issues surrounding mental health as part of the KSDB Roundtable Discussion series Friday night. The discussion was broadcast live on KSDB-FM 91.9.
Participants included Karen Smothers, assistant director and clinical director at Pawnee Mental Health Services; Chaz Mailey, licensed psychologist at K-State Counseling Services; Tina Steffensmeier, a private-practice licensed clinical professional counselor; and Michelle Houston, clinical social worker at Fort Riley’s Irwin Army Community Hospital.
Smothers said depression relates to a person’s inability to control the past, while anxiety relates to a person’s inability to control the future.
“Typically, (anxiety is) a normal human emotion that we’re wired for self-preservation … in some ways it helps athletes perform well or musicians perform well,” Smothers said.
Mailey said the pressure to perform could have started in high school and grow worse with greater competition in college.
“When you look at where they’re coming from, oftentimes there’s this desire to achieve or this pressure to achieve,” Mailey said. “There’s this pressure to fit in, there’s this pressure to perform, be that academically, athletically, if you’re playing an instrument, if you dance … you’re sort of pushed to the brink.”
He also said students can face anxiety for being away from home, relationship concerns or for having to make more “adult decisions.”
“Then you look at the pressures you get towards the end of your college career, ‘What do I do next?'” Mailey said. “There’s the stress, I think unfortunately, of some students knowing that the amount of money that they have paid for school and the types of jobs that they’ll be able to get are commensurate. So then there’s that pressure that comes with having student loans and being in debt for ‘X’ number of years.”
Houston said anxiety and trouble relaxing are issues for members of the military.
“(The military) is designed for anxiety,” Houston said. “It’s designed for you to react.”
Smothers said exercise, enough sleep, a good diet and less caffeine can help reduce anxiety.
“It’s like inflating a tire,” Smothers said. “You want enough stress to be able to inflate the tire so that it rolls smoothly, but you don’t want it to explode once it hits a bump.”
A caller into the program, Brennan from Manhattan, asked the roundtable participants how to be a friend to someone dealing with mental health issues.
Houston said it is important to be there and listen to the friend. Steffensmeier said after listening to the friend, it may be good to convince them to see a professional.
“I have noticed especially with college students, a lot of them maybe have never been in therapy or don’t know what they’re feeling,” Steffensmeier said. “Being supportive and knowing that you could suggest some resources that are available. Sometimes it’s a good move just to try and convincing them to go see their physician.”
Mailey said body image can also be a source of anxiety, and more men are seeking counseling in relation to body image. He also said alcohol abuse can be an issue for college students.
“I think part of the collegiate culture is alcohol is so intricately intertwined with that,” Mailey said. “One of the unfortunate things is there aren’t many opportunities for students to socialize I think or that’s the perception of doing things outside of alcohol.”
Mailey said he thinks the perception that alcohol is necessary for socialization can be changed, but “it probably has to come more from the students leading that and pushing that change.”