College can be challenging, especially during a pandemic. Accessing mental health services shouldn’t be.
“Mental health issues, by nature, are isolating disorders. Some of the typical symptoms of depression and anxiety are a lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating and social withdrawal. This creates a cycle where the mental health issue makes you isolated and the isolation exacerbates the mental health issue,” said Sean Steele, an Education and Leadership in Healthcare Doctorate student and graduate assistant in the Counseling Department at Nebraska Methodist College (NMC).
“Counseling is a neutral, safe environment to dissect and shine a light on the issue you’re having. Oftentimes, acknowledging the issue with another person is a first step in breaking the cycle.”
NMC understands the unique needs of healthcare students, which is why Student Engagement and Support Services provides student mental health services that can facilitate success in the classroom and personally.
College Students and Mental Health
It’s common for college students to struggle with their mental health, according to the National Institutes of Health.
First-time first-year students take on adult responsibilities for the first time while navigating the demands of college courses. Graduate students balance working full-time and caring for their families while meeting the demands of their academic program. Military students fulfill service obligations that require long workdays away from home while transitioning to campus life.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added stress and challenges to college life.
“Mental health issues can thrive in isolation. The pandemic has created an environment where we are forced to isolate and distance ourselves from each other,” said Steele, who is also a licensed clinical social worker and mental health therapist.
“On top of that, the healthcare industry is on the frontline of dealing with the pandemic. Healthcare workers across the country feel overworked, understaffed and are seeing death and debilitating disease at an unprecedented level.”
College students’ mental health challenges include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and substance abuse.
Up to 44% of college students reported having symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic Health System.
Situations or risk factors that could trigger depression or anxiety include changes in relationship status, sexual assault, friendship difficulties, sexual or gender identity adjustment difficulties, family history, academic pressure, body image struggles or stressful life events.
Not seeking help can increase the likelihood of poor academic performance, dropping out of college, substance abuse and suicide, according to the Mayo Clinic Health System.
Early identification and treatment of mental health challenges and disorders can help students have a more positive college experience and increase the likelihood of academic success, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Healthcare Burnout in the Pandemic
Healthcare students and professionals may experience burnout because of the challenging decisions and experiences caused by attending classes and working in a pandemic.
Burnout is chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed, according to the World Health Organization. It’s characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job and reduced professional efficacy.
“A counselor can help process the grief and overwhelming emotions associated with burnout,” Steele said. “Counseling is also beneficial in providing coping skills for heightened emotions and teaching people how to prioritize a work-life balance.”
Causes of Burnout:
- Ethical dilemmas and moral injuries from the torment of life-or-death decisions
- Feared exposure and transmission to friends and family
- Grief and pain of losing patients and colleagues
- Labor shortages that affect patient’s quality of care
- Limited access to necessary medical equipment
- For students, inexperience leads to overwhelming emotional responses
Symptoms of Burnout:
- Irritation, anger or denial
- Uncertainty, nervousness or anxiety
- Feelings of helplessness or powerlessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of motivation
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Difficulty sleeping and sleep disturbances
How to Deal with Burnout:
- Talk to people you trust that validate you and offer you compassion
- Leave work at work and learn to prioritize work-life balance
- Debrief after each shift, if possible, but especially after a difficult workday
- Talk to a professional
Student Mental Health Resources
NMC offers free, confidential counseling to all enrolled students.
These services help students make adjustments in their academic and personal lives. The licensed onsite counselor is trained to address a variety of issues, including test anxiety, relationships/codependency, stress management, time management, anxiety, coping strategies, substance abuse, depression, grief and loss, family/parenting issues and more.
Students can also receive spiritually-focused council and encouragement or mentoring.
“Counseling has many benefits depending on what it is that you are motivated to work on and what is causing you impairment. The primary benefit is a validating and compassionate professional to talk to about your issues. Talking to a therapist can assist in creating an emotional vocabulary which can benefit effective communication and interpersonal skills,” Steele said.
“Self-esteem and self-acceptance can also increase through recognition of distorted thoughts. If a student is struggling with stress, a counselor can help them manage that stress through improved problem-solving and conflict resolution abilities. If a student feels heightened anxiety, a counselor can assist them with challenging their negative self-talk and seeing a decrease in the intensity and frequency for their symptoms.”
NMC has a licensed independent mental health practitioner, two master’s level counseling interns and a spiritual development coordinator.
On-campus counselors meet with students and/or their family members, including partners and children.
Students are encouraged to initiate contact with the counseling office, although referrals can be made by faculty, staff, parents or concerned friends.
Counseling services at NMC are voluntary and free. All information is kept in the strictest confidence in accordance with the law.
24/7 Mental Health Support for Students
In addition to on-campus counseling, free, confidential counseling services are available 24 hours a day and every day of the year through the Student Assistance Program. Students can receive free assessments and counseling services with a licensed mental health practitioner.
Online students who don’t live in Omaha can receive referrals for providers in their area through the Student Assistance Program.
For more information, go to www.BestCareEAP.org or call (402) 354-8020 or (800) 776-6233.
Mental health services during off-hours are also accessible through the Boys Town Suicide and Crisis Line, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the National Drug Information Treatment and Referral Hotline and the USA National Child Abuse Hotline.
Find contact information for these services at www.methodistcollege.edu/support-services.
How to Schedule an Appointment with NMC Counseling Services
For mental health counseling services, contact Kathy Dworak, director of student counseling services, at (402) 354-7080 or schedule an appointment on her calendar.
For spiritual support, contact Kim Haizlip at email@example.com.