As academic and personal ambitions continue to rise each year at Hillsdale College, more and more students are receiving counseling services.
In 2012, there were 800 counseling visits in the course of the school year by students and staff at Hillsdale College’s Ambler Health Center. Last year, there were over 2,000. With six counselors on campus, that amounts to more than 115 total hours of counseling available per week. Brock Lutz, director of health services, estimates that 35% of campus, including some staff and faculty, come for counseling.
The services available at the health center include individual and group counseling for issues such as pornography, substance recovery, family dysfunction, stress, and eating disorders. Most students, however, set up one-on-one meetings to discuss personal struggles and goals, focusing mainly on time management and stress, according to Lutz.
“I think that we have seen more anxiety and stress over the last couple of years,” Lutz said. “We are recruiting higher test scores, higher-functioning, Type A students who really want to do excellently and do everything, which is really challenging or impossible to do. Anxiety and stress tend to be the most pressing issues we see.”
A Hillsdale student’s workload can become overwhelming and stressful, but Lutz said he provides a checklist that addresses the key to a healthy and productive life.
“One of the places we start is the physical,” he said. “Getting exercise, moving, taking walks, just getting out, eating, and making sure you’re feeding yourself well, making sure you have balance in your diet, and then sleep.”
The average college student gets about six to six-and-a-half hours of sleep per night, which can lead to increased anxiety and depression, according to a study by the University of Georgia. With very little time spent sleeping at night, many students turn to naps as a form of rejuvenation.
“I often don’t sleep well at night, so I find myself feeling particularly tired during the day,” freshman Russell Breaux said. “Sometimes I don’t have the energy to socialize, so the best thing I can do to relax is take naps.”
Scientists and health professionals have studied the effects of napping during the day, and while some argue they are beneficial and a great form of relaxation, others discourage naps due to the disruption of the body’s natural sleep cycle.
“One of the things I tell students that they don’t like is no naps,” Lutz said. “Don’t take naps because naps completely disrupt your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep at night, so when you go to sleep and you might even be tired, your body does not hit REM sleep fast enough. What happens is you end up laying in bed, you are awake, you get frustrated, and then you don’t sleep or sleep in late.”
In counseling, Lutz also encourages students to build a routine around sleep in order to limit stress and maximize productivity.
“Get yourself to bed at 11 and wake up at 6 or 6:30,” Lutz said. “Go to bed at around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning because your body likes to get in a routine.”
While getting oneself in physical shape with the proper sleep and a healthy diet is a major chunk of a person’s overall health, Lutz places spiritual well-being at the center of a healthy life.
“I believe faith is the most important thing in a person’s life, but for some people, this is just the beginning stages of that journey,” Lutz said. “For everyone, they can think about what’s their purpose, where do they get their values and significance from, and those are deeply spiritual questions that everyone struggles to answer.”
In order to address the emotional, social, behavioral, and mental aspects of a student’s well-being, Lutz begins by asking students about their beliefs and moral code.
“Whether someone is a practicing Christian or a Jewish person or whatever else, still the spiritual domain is very important so we can have broad conversations with everyone like, ‘What are your morals? What are the values that you hold dear in your life? What do you want your life to be about?’” Lutz said.
Lutz and the other therapists focus on what the individual student wants to discuss. The counselor’s job is to listen and provide professional direction in an environment that allows students to freely express their struggles and get proper help.
“We are completely confidential here,” Lutz said. “The only thing we can break confidentiality for is if a person is homicidal, suicidal, or psychotic.”
Despite confidentiality, some students prefer to seek counseling off campus and choose to meet with Shari Mayote, a therapist who works in Hillsdale on Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Mayote meets mainly with students who are entering college, but she said they are dealing with similar issues that she sees with college students.
“I would say that anxiety and balancing relationships and schoolwork are the most common issues that I see,” Mayote said. “I think owning feelings and emotions and realizing they are a part of life is very important.”
Both Lutz and Mayote said they believe lack of sleep is affecting the mental well-being of students at Hillsdale.
“If you’re not getting sleep you are going to be more anxious and more depressed,” Mayote said. “You should aim for eight hours of sleep and some people need more.”
Whether students are athletes, members of multiple clubs, or just stressed, Hillsdale College has helped many students recover and manage their busy schedules.
Senior Caleb Clark says college can be a stressful time of life so students should take advantage of these easily-accessible resources while they have the chance.
“Going to the counseling sessions at health services has actually improved my mental health quite a bit,” Clark said. “Having someone to talk to and work through things going on in your life really does help.”
The Health and Wellness Center has free counseling appointments available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.. The typical appointment is anywhere from 45 to 50 minutes.