Student counseling on the rise

Though the spring semester has only just begun, students are already feeling the demands of overexertion.

"I work two late-night shifts at the dining hall and a late-night shift at the firehouse," said sophomore Rebecca May. "On top of that, I have classes from 8 - 11 a.m. In order to stay awake, I drink copious amounts of coffee and pinch myself."

It has long been apparent that college students have to handle a variety of pressures, but national statistics indicate that stress levels have increased year after year. The most recent National Vital Statistics Report published through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that suicide is the third leading cause of death for college-age students, surpassed only by accidents and homicide.

"93.4 percent of [campus counseling] directors report that the recent trend toward greater number of students with severe psychological problems continues to be true on their campuses," states a 2009 study published by the National Survey of Counseling Clinical Directors.

Dr. Beth Cholette, clinical director for Counseling Services at Geneseo said she is all too familiar with rising stress levels at Geneseo. "I certainly can tell you that here in counseling services, we definitely believe that we have seen an increase in the severity of student symptoms over the past 10 or so years," she said. "Personally, I think that anxiety symptoms have increased exponentially."

Typical sources of anxiety for college students include homesickness, romantic issues, academic problems, interpersonal difficulties including roommate conflicts, bereavement and grief resulting from the loss of a loved one, rape or sexual assault, confusion about one's gender, identity, sexuality or self-image and body image concerns.

A study published by the American Journal of Health Studies in 2004 identified time management as the factor that most strongly increases academic stress.

"Whether caused by social activities, job responsibilities, family duties or poor health, the less sleep a student got, the lower their grades," the study states. "Stress management techniques can mitigate the effects, but in more severe cases, the intervention of an on-campus counseling center is needed."

Junior Kimberly Benkert said she has not used the services of the counseling center but can empathize with those who seek its resources. "Speaking as a student with a double major and minor, I can say with authority that I know something about stress," she said. "There are nights when I only get two hours of sleep. When I do have time to sleep, I'm too stressed; when I don't have time to sleep, I'm utterly exhausted. Sometimes, I just stare at the clock and watch the hours pass by."

Counseling sessions on campus are available at no price to students by appointment and promise confidentiality. Offered services include psychiatric consultations, crisis intervention, short-term couples counseling, group therapy, educational outreach programs, workshops and lectures, self-help information and off-campus referrals. Appointments can be made by calling (585) 245-5716.