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The Health and Wellness Center Allison Schuster | Courtesy

 

Anxiety, depression, and stress afflict more Amer­icans than ever before, and Hillsdale stu­dents aren’t immune from that trend, according to members of the admin­is­tration and staff.

A study pub­lished in April by Psy­chi­atric Ser­vices reported that 3.4 percent of Amer­icans described them­selves as suf­fering serious psy­cho­logical dis­tress, while that figure never sur­passed 3 percent in pre­vious eval­u­a­tions. At Hillsdale, there’s been a 55-hour increase in weekly coun­seling appoint­ments at Health Ser­vices since 2010.

Dean of Women Diane Philipp said she does not believe stu­dents on Hillsdale’s campus differ from their fellow Amer­icans, and the college is pre­pared to meet that need.

“[Stu­dents’] emo­tional, physical, and spir­itual well-being is some­thing we care about. It is important to us that our stu­dents are healthy,” Philipp said in an email. “If they are strong, they will perform well in the classroom and live happier lives.”

Director of Health Ser­vices Brock Lutz empha­sized the chal­lenge of tracking the increase in psy­cho­logical stress within and outside the college — are indi­viduals truly suf­fering more, or do people feel more con­fident in asking for help with the decrease in stigma and the increase in resources?

Lutz exem­plified this phe­nomenon with the 55-hour increase in weekly coun­seling appoint­ments at Health Ser­vices in the last seven years. More people seek coun­seling now because the oppor­tu­nities exist — but does that mean more people need pro­fes­sional help in 2017 than in 2000?

“Walking on campus six years ago, it’s tough to say, ‘people here are more depressed now than they were,’” Lutz said. “I think we have more resources for people, and I think we’re talking about these things more with stu­dents and faculty and staff. And so in that regard, I think it’s probably easier for people to access help.”

Between one-on-one therapy, support groups, campus clubs, and activ­ities, both Lutz and Philipp said the college wants to provide help to stu­dents in any degree of psy­cho­logical dis­tress.

As the pres­ident of Light­house, a club that pro­motes mental health, senior biochem major Taylor Hannel said her orga­ni­zation works to educate people about mental ill­nesses and break any stigmas sur­rounding those problems to foster vul­ner­a­bility on campus. But Light­house itself does not exist to pull a student out of crisis mode. Instead, the group directs stu­dents to resources that can help them.

“We’re not here to help anyone solve their problems, but we are here to point them in the direc­tions of the resources that we have on campus,” Hannel said. “And this campus has a ton of resources.”

Hannel, Lutz, and Philipp each cited people, activ­ities, and facil­ities a student can turn to whether she struggles with clinical mental health con­cerns or the over­whelming exis­tential ques­tions college can pose. While Hannel empha­sized Lutz and his staff of coun­selors as essential campus resources, Lutz said stu­dents can also find mentors in the deans, in their pro­fessors, and in other faculty members.

For those who need no more than stress relief, Philipp said the admin­is­tration creates fun activ­ities designed to help stu­dents relax. Activ­ities such as res­i­dence life events, intra­mural and club sports, Student Activ­ities Board pro­grams, cadence runs, yoga, and cycling classes all con­tribute to this effort, she said.

“It’s okay to struggle — that doesn’t define who you are,” Hannel said. “There are people here who are willing to walk with you on your journey.”