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The Calm Before the Storm

Last updated on May 1, 2020

Throughout my life, I have known people who have been affected by mental illness and struggled for years. Personally, I am affected by anxiety related to school and social life, therefore I can understand what students at Saint Joseph’s University go through on a day to day basis inside the classroom and socially. Those who are affected by mental illness can find it difficult to be fully invested and focused in a classroom setting. Those affected by mental illness can also struggle immensely with being fully immersed in their academics. This limits the way in which learning is achieved. If a person feels anxiety about grades and school, in general, it is going to be difficult to achieve full potential in the classroom. It is especially important to discuss the topic of mental illness when at both the high school and college levels. High School years and college years are about finding yourself and growing into a young adult. These times in your life can be both stress and anxiety-ridden.

According to a study done by American Psychological Association on college students and the rising mental health issues at the college level, 41.6% of students claim to have anxiety, and 36.4% claim to have depression. Although we can infer that this study did not ask every single college student in the country, 41.6% of those a part of the survey admitted to experiencing anxiety at the college level. Universities are experiencing an increase in these numbers than in past years. The big question is why? Why is there a rise in anxiety and depression among college students?

Studies from The American Institute of Stress state that the number one reason for students to seek mental health services is due to both anxiety and depression. Experts explain anxiety in college students from the amount that is on their plates. “Students often have to manage heavy loads of coursework, in addition to participating in extracurricular activities and holding part-time or full-time jobs” (The American Institute of Stress). In addition to the immense amount of college students’ plates, they are also in the midst of a major life transition from childhood to adulthood. “The everyday stresses and demands of the academic environment also contribute to students’ feelings of anxiety” (The American Institute of Stress). Students are so worried to fail, especially at the college level, that they put an immense amount of pressure on themselves along with holding themselves to the highest standard.

Experts are concluding that the reason anxiety has skyrocketed in college students over the past few years could be the increase in technology and smartphone usage. Students are not using healthy coping mechanisms like exercising, face to face communication, and studying, rather they are turning to social media and the false sense of reality that it can have. Some safe, healthy coping mechanisms that we can use that are recommended by Harvard Medical School are not avoiding your issues, practicing self-care, and receiving help from on-campus resources. “Investigate campus resources for academic advising, study support, peer counseling, and student mental health” (LeBlanc).

In the textbook, Building Access Universal Design and the Politics of Disability by Aimi Hamraie there are a few definitions that come to mind that are applicable to anxiety and depression. Hamarie talks about human bodies being legible or illegible. It is important to make things and public places that are legible so they are accessible to all persons. This goes the same for mental health as it does physical health. It is important for campuses across the United States to have resources where students can access help for themselves. “Access-knowledge, a regime of legibility and illegibility, emerged from interdisciplinary concerns with what users need, how their bodies function, how they interact with space and what kinds of people of people are likely to be in the world” (Hamarie 5). For example, people with wheelchairs do not use curbs because they are not accessible. If curbs were more accessible for those in wheelchairs then curbs would be used. People often overlook “small” things like that because they assume they do not use them. But, in reality, it is because they are not legible or possible for them. Ultimately, what this quotation tells readers is that we must be able to fix the norm and adapt to both people’s physical and mental needs. The purpose of Project Bloom is to shed a light on the fact that our campus is not as accessible as it should be.

As we get older, we become closer and closer to entering the real world. Therefore, it is very important that we are prepared for the real world. School is necessary to prepare us for what is to come after our high school and college years. For me, and other college students can feel a great deal of anxiety and pressure to do so well in school so they are prepared for the real world. We are programmed to do well in school and that will equate to success in the future. But what we do not talk about is the journey to getting there. There are struggles and hardships that we face along the way, and I do not believe that those are talked about enough.

For more information, please visit https://sites.sju.edu/counseling/ for on-campus resources at Saint Joseph’s University and how to stay engaged during these unprecedented times.

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