Campus groups to address predicted increase in student stress levels during finals

Geneseo organizations have collaborated on initiatives and programming in anticipation of a rise in mental health issues during the upcoming final examination period. 

Geneseo First Response is working with Lauderdale Health and Counseling, the Department of Student Life, the Village of Geneseo Board of Trustees and other student groups to provide more resources for students dealing with stress related problems, according to GFR Crew Chief and Chief of Operations Justen Geddes.

“This time of year, obviously, people are more stressed,” Geddes said. “Increased stress can have physical implications, such as higher heart rates … panic attacks and  anxiety attacks.” 

The number of college students seeking mental health services nationwide has increased 50 percent over the past year, according to the annual report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. Of those seeking help for mental health, 33.2 percent have seriously considered attempting suicide—a number that has steadily increased over the past five years—as shown in the annual report. 

In a survey conducted during the 2016-17 academic year, as many as 86 percent of students labeled academic stress as their primary concern, according to a Feb. 23 article in The Lamron.   

Geneseo is increasing efforts to help combat mental health and stress-related issues, especially during finals week, according to Director of Student Life Charles Matthews. 

“We have really high expectations for ourselves, certainly, but Geneseo’s a demanding school and the students who come to Geneseo are demanding of themselves as well,” Matthews said. “You couple those things and it just causes stress. There’s a lot going on in the world, in our society, that adds to that stress and I see that.” 

In collaboration with Lauderdale Health and Counseling, GFR is similarly readjusting the training process for medics responding to mental health issues, according to Geddes. The organization is trying to improve how medics converse with patients and is working to teach volunteers how to act as a calming presence for stressed students before transferring them to higher health authorities. 

GFR is also aiming to increase its visibility on-campus and interact with students in non-emergency situations. In doing so, GFR hopes to allow students to feel more comfortable contacting emergency medical services, Geddes said. 

“One of the problems that studies have shown is that if someone’s having a stress-related emergency, and three EMTs come in … and then maybe another ambulance is going to come and that’s a lot,” Geddes said. “Engaging with students when there isn’t a medical emergency, it makes it a little less scary if they know our faces, know who we are, know why we’re there.”  

Beyond GFR and Student Life, programs such as the anonymous talk-line service Geneseo Pathways, acknowledge the presence of stress on-campus, according to Pathways coordinator and professor of psychology Jennifer Katz. 

“We responded to 90 calls last year, so I imagine there are more people experiencing stress who don’t reach out to us and don’t reach out to other places,” Katz said. “We definitely want people not to feel alone. We want people to be able to reach out if they’re lonely or stressed out and not really sure where to turn.”u

Students completing coursework in Milne Library while preparing for finals, which start on Wednesday Dec. 13 (pictured above). Due to the rise in students’ stress-related concerns during previous finals periods, different campus organizations like Geneseo First Response and the Department of Student Life have attempted to provide services in expectation of the rise in stress. (Annalee Bainnson/Photo Editor)

Students completing coursework in Milne Library while preparing for finals, which start on Wednesday Dec. 13 (pictured above). Due to the rise in students’ stress-related concerns during previous finals periods, different campus organizations like Geneseo First Response and the Department of Student Life have attempted to provide services in expectation of the rise in stress. (Annalee Bainnson/Photo Editor)

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