Personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor self-care, and hopeless — these are just a few of the many signs an individual may show when experiencing stress or emotional suffering.
According to the American College Health Association’s (ACHA) National College Health Assessment (NCHA) in Spring 2016, 58% of college students surveyed felt overwhelming anxiety over the course of a year. The University of Georgia provides students with many resources to help reduce and manage potential stress; however, not all methods are equal. Despite this statistic, the NCHA reported that only 17% of students were diagnosed or treated for anxiety. This may be because students aren’t aware, don’t think they have a problem, or think they are inconvenient.
“I think [students] could be made more aware of the health center’s programs,” said Laura Smoak, a sophomore studying psychology and Spanish at UGA. “I feel like sometimes when we think about the health center, ‘You go there when you’re sick.’ But they actually have a whole lot more resources than just that.”
Smoak started attending the University Health Center’s (UHC) “Yoga for Stress Relief” program this semester. Alice Huff, UHC therapist and certified yoga instructor teaches free yoga every Tuesday in the Tate Student Center. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, yoga has been proven to reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being.
“I think students really benefit from something like this because it’s a healthy way to reduce anxiety in comparison to, say, going downtown and drinking,” says Smoak.
Huff’s program has grown quickly; students crowd the room each week in hopes of getting a spot. Other free resources provided by the UHC haven’t had as much success, however.
On the other side of campus Krista Garrett, a psychologist at the UHC, leads a Stress and Anxiety Workshop weekly in the Ramsey Student Center. Each week Krista leads a conversation about different topics, such as understanding anxiety, calming one’s body, calming one’s mind, and how to create a lifestyle for managing stress.
Like yoga, Garrett’s workshops are free, non-binding and available to all students, but the turnout hasn’t been as successful. At the last meeting, only six individuals showed up: four students, one staff member, and Garrett herself. One student was there simply to receive credit for his First Year Odyssey seminar.
Because of policy, we were not able to interview professional staff members from the UHC.
“I think that the mental health culture in the United States right now is… changing and moving forward, but it’s still something that isn’t normalized to the same normal as physical health.” Aria Thiessen, a public relations major at UGA, offered her thoughts on mental health awareness at the university. Thiessen, Student Campaign Director of Know the Five UGA, a student-run initiative trying to change the dialogue of mental health and promote recognition of the signs of emotional suffering, has been doing primary and secondary research about the mental health of UGA students.
“What we’ve found in our research is that people our age and our peers, at least at the University of Georgia, are more receptive to hearing things from their peers, especially about mental health.”
Thiessen said that student-run organizations, such as You’re Not Alone and Active Minds at UGA, can also provide platforms for students to discuss anxiety and mental health more openly; however, she does believe that the university is concerned about the mental well-being of their students.
“They want us to thrive and have the best possible experience, and in order to do that, it’s paramount that… we’re as healthy as we can possibly be in that area.”