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Counseling and Talking are Good Remedies for Stressed-Out Students

By Samantha Tracey / Log Staff Writer
On April 20, 2012

Many college students experience stressful or traumatic events while in school that can distract and disrupt their overall academic performances.

At Salem State University, students are faced with a variety of stressful and upsetting situations.

Heather Spring, 21, a junior, said she has gone through several stressful events during her college career that hindered her academic performance.

In September 2009, while Spring was a freshman, her grandfather became ill. This put a lot of stress on Spring and her family. During the beginning months, Spring felt that she was in denial.

"I kept thinking he'll be fine, he'll pull through," she said. However, after the New Year, things started to get worse. Her grandfather's oxygen was depleting and he developed dementia.

He wasn't able to go out anywhere and hospital visits became very frequent. Spring started going to the house to help out her grandmother and aunt anyway she could.

"I was going over there all the time," she said. This event prevented Spring from focusing on her academics.

"My family became more important and I wasn't studying as much," she said. "I realized I was finishing assignments the day they were due, and that's not like me at all."

Her grandfather passed in April 2010.

"It was almost a relief," she said.

Spring did not have to worry about his suffering anymore. She knew he was in a better place. She started focusing more on her schoolwork and did well on her finals.

She also experienced a traumatic event during the last fall semester.

On Sept 24., Spring and her roommate had a birthday party in their new apartment. One of the guests verbally threatened and physically assaulted several of the guests, one of whom was Spring.

He also violently attacked another guest who ended up going to the hospital and needing eye surgery.

The event was very traumatic for Spring, and she took advantage of the services the University provides. She started going to counseling and continued going throughout the entire fall semester.

Spring said it about two weeks after the incident to get back into her normal routines and to focus more on school. Counseling helped her out the most.

"It helped to be able to talk to a third party and get it all out," she said. "I was able to put it in the back of my mind after that."

According to a 2011 article from "The Chronicle," "new research shows that these kinds of tragic events can have long-term effects on students, even hurting their chances of earning college degrees.

"Studies have shown that even the stress alone caused by such events can pose risks to students and hinder their academic performances."

Students often need help getting through tough times like these.

SSU offers counseling services in the Ellison Campus Center to provide students with that assistance.

Karen Hruska, a six-year employee at the University's Counseling and Health Services, sees many students throughout the year with a variety of issues they are dealing with.

Hruska said she feels that most students don't come to college to go to counseling, but figure out that the services are a good resource to utilize.

"They find that they need help when they get here," she said.

There are certain times during the year that more students tend to seek out counseling services.

Many freshman students make use of counseling around the end of September. Those students are adjusting to college, being away from home, and living with roommates, and they may need a little extra help adapting to those new situations.

Many SSU students also need help around midterms and finals time.

"It's a pressure cooker," Hruska said.

Many students who are graduating also go to counseling.

From Hruska's experience, those students start to worry about "What's next now?" The research shows that April is the number-one month of mental health.

Hruska feels that students with depression, anxiety or other serious mental health conditions need more help during this month because the weather starts getting nice and everyone around them seems happy, but those students are not.

Also, April is the time of year when students' grades may be on probation. It's the "sink or swim" time, as Hruska says.

No matter what time of year students come to counseling services, they always bring a wide range of problems to the table.

"It's a really wide variety," Hruska said. "You never know what's going to come in," and that's what she loves about working there.

According to Hruska, students seek help for many things, some of which are relationship-related, either through family issues or with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Other issues may involve depression, anxiety, identity issues, and academic stress.

According to college and finance.com, the top five most common stressors for college students are relationships, roommate conflicts, time management, academics, and finances.

Hruska and the other counselors are trained to take a lot of different approaches to student's problems and concerns.

"Each specific problem can have you walk in a different way to help," she said.

Sometimes medication can be prescribed to students when needed and off campus help may be suggested occasionally for students who may need assistance beyond what counseling services can provide.

Hruska and the other counselors at the SSU often ask students who come in for help, "How are you doing academically?"

The counselors' main priority is to help students with their problems, but they also often address students' academics.

"We really understand the academic mission," Hruska said.

Some students can be doing fine academically and come in with other problems.

The research shows that sometimes the academically strongest students are the ones who seek help because they're usually under more pressure and know how to utilize resources.

According to an article called "Stress Statistics," "out of 2,200 college students, 85 percent of them reported feeling stressed daily, but 70 percent of students did not consider speaking with a counselor."

No matter what the problem is, SSU students should know that counseling services is there to help.

"If you need help, we are definitely here for you," Hruska said.


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