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A Mental Health Game Plan for College Students and FamiliesRob Danzman, MS, NCC, LCMHC
My name is Logan Elliott, and I'm a graduate student pursuing a Master’s Degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education. I'm writing to tell you about my experience utilizing the counseling center at my university (Missouri State), and provide some insights into what your students can get out of the experience as well — no matter where they go to school.
I started visiting the counseling center my first semester of graduate school. I wasn’t facing anything immensely troubling; however, I was dealing with transitional issues such as homesickness and loneliness, as well as academic struggles because this was my first experience in a graduate-level program.
I found the appointments helpful, but as my schedule filled up over the course of the school year, my priorities shifted and ultimately I stopped going to the counseling center.
At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal to stop going. After all, I'd made it through some of those transitional issues, and didn’t need the resource anymore, right?
Wrong! It wasn’t until the start of this past semester that I decided to begin taking advantage of this valuable campus resource again.
The Missouri State Counseling Center made some changes that made using it even easier for students who were struggling with their mental health or just needed a professional to debrief with. One was allowing students to make appointments through both phone and email. The easier it is, the more likely students will take advantage of the resource, so take some time to help your new or returning college student explore how counseling services are accessed at their school.
I think one of the reasons this resource is often underutilized is that there is still, unfortunately, a stigma around mental health counseling, that those of us who use mental health services have “problems” or are “crazy.” I'm here to tell you, from personal experience, that those are 100% myths and are inaccurate assumptions. Mental health counseling is just as important as seeking health guidance from a doctor regarding your physical health, and can ensure that your students are as successful as possible during their college experience.
There are many reasons a student may seek to use the counseling center, which includes but is not limited to things such as:
As you can see, these are common problems faced by all members of our community. Even just getting some of the common struggles that students face off of their chests will make an immense difference.
Students engaging in a post-secondary education often face a shift in the support system that they have had for all or most of their lives. Away from family, friends, past mentors, etc., they need support when they are at school. The counseling center is a way to gain an additional professional in your student’s corner that will care for and challenge them as they work to be successful in their academic efforts.
It's a great idea to talk to your student over the summer about the services offered by their campus counseling center and the benefits that come from taking good care of their mental health. If your student decides to make an appointment this fall, the first session, called an intake, consists of exploring the reasons they're seeking counseling, relevant personal history, and the development of the student’s goals for counseling.
I've had a great experience with mental health counseling at my university, and believe that any student who engages with the counseling center will find that it helps them to be successful in some form or fashion. Let’s beat the stigma by being bold and unafraid to seek help when needed.
Help your student take the best possible care of themselves and get support when they need it.