Special Section: Students are increasingly seeking mental health help

Jake Dressman

WKU academic adviser Carol Alicie said she frequently has students cry in her office, reflecting a general trend across college campuses today.  

“Some of the student problems that are being encountered now more so than in the past are emotional,” Alicie said. 

An increasing number of college students are seeking counseling each year, according to a 2015 report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. Anxiety, stress and depression are the leading concerns that students reported.

Alicie said she has 184 advisees, but she makes sure to treat each one of them as an individual. 

“I am very involved with my students,” Alicie said. “And I work very hard to see that they know about the counseling center in Potter Hall 409.’’

Betsy Pierce, a clinical psychologist at the WKU Counseling and Testing Center, said the numbers of students seeking counseling may be increasing due to the stigma around mental health decreasing as well as better advertising of the help available. 

However, the center can only have about 30 appointments per day. Its website lists 11 staff members, including the CTC therapy dog, Star. 

Katy, a social work major who requested her real name not be used due to concerns about the stigma associated with seeking help, said sometimes it is difficult to schedule an appointment with work and school taking up so much of her time.  

“I’m stressed about being stressed,” Katy said. “It’s like one thing builds upon another, so if you fall behind in one area, it’s like a domino effect, and everything just piles on top of each other.” 

Katy said her anxiety makes it a lot harder to participate in the learning environment, especially with group and other social projects, and that one of her greatest causes of stress is finances. 

Shohei Downing, a senior English major, also said finance was a significant stressor as well as relationship struggles. 

“I think there’s a lot of superficial relationships, especially online,” Downing said. “It doesn’t feel positive. People are just aggressive on social media.”  

Other leading factors for stress and anxiety are academic challenges, lack of a parental support system and the struggles identifying as a new adult, according to an article from former academic adviser Sharon Rauch. 

Rauch advised at Westwood College before becoming the academic dean there. Rauch recently got her doctorate in education, and she wrote her dissertation on the connection between academics and mental health, which she draws from numerous scientific studies. 

One study from the paper reported that at-risk students show more academic success if counselors combine mental health treatment and academic advising to assist each student.  

“The college environment can either empower students to mature or impede their maturation,” Rauch said. 

Alicie also talked about her efforts to push students toward independence. 

“I encourage students to think for themselves,” Alicie said. “Mom and dad still want to keep you right under that thumb a lot of times, but you need to think for yourself.”  

News reporter Jake Dressman can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]