As the end of fall term approaches, more and more students are feeling the impending stress of final exams, portfolios and papers. The end of the term, however, is not the only time the Counseling Center sees an increase in students trying to make an appointment to see a counselor.
“We see an increase just after midterms,” counselor and Director of Counseling Services Dan Larson said. “Right about now, we see a few more calls coming in.”
Larson also said that in general, more students seek counseling during winter and spring term. Fall term is often easier for people to handle because they can look forward to a longer break, Larson said. As time goes on, he said, students try to deal with their problems on their own, and in the last few weeks of the term, “They say, ‘okay, I need the help now.’”
Larson said that last year, the Counseling Center saw 20 percent of the student body over the course of the year. That was up two percent from one year before. He said that this fall term, the number seems to be climbing.
However, stress from school is not the root problem that causes people go to the Counseling Center. Rather, Larson said that most students who come in suffer from depression and anxiety, which is exacerbated by academic stress.
Senior Ariel Krietzman said that her experience in one particular art class last year led her, eventually, to the Counseling Center.
“I had my entire identity wrapped up in art,” she said. “I had this crisis of having to prove it.”
Krietzman said that while the critiques in Open Studio, an intensive three-credit art class during winter term, were meant to be harsh, “I don’t think that pressure is necessarily useful.”
Senior Rosie Worthen, a Montana native, said, “Winter term is probably the most stressful. I am affected by the weather. Here, it’s grey all the time. Back home, if it snows or rains, it only does that for a couple hours.”
Of the Counseling Center, Krietzman said, “I didn’t start going early enough.”
While she said that at this time she could be patient with going to therapy, last winter, “I felt like my life was collapsing.” This led to a feeling of futility with talking to someone every week. “At some point, it’s like, what can they do for me?”
Worthen said that she has not sought counseling “because it’s not really my style.” Instead, she chooses to deal with stress through yoga and extracurricular activities.
When asked about how taking on more could possibly help stress levels, Worthen said, “It’s good to diversify your stress.”
Worthen is involved in Alliance for Peaceful Action (APA) and Estudiantes sin fronteras (ESF), and said that sometimes being involved in campus activism is stressful because “the level of activism has gone down. It’s a lot of stress on the few of us to continually try to do things all the time.”
However, this is still better for Worthen than spending all of her time stressing over academia, which was her main focus in high school.
“In high school, [my anxiety] was worse. I was more geared toward academia. I had to learn how to calm down with that. I still get very stressed, depressed and anxious when I have a lot due.”
Even so, Worthen said that it helps that her professors are aware of these issues so that communication about it is easier.
Krietzman has had problems with depression and anxiety in the past, and Worthen said she has always had issues with anxiety. Larson said that this is the case for many people at Knox, who come in with these problems, which are then worsened by the problems of academic stress.
“Depression and anxiety are always a one-two punch,” Larson said. “We’re also seeing more relationship issues the last two terms.”
Larson said that this term, the Counseling Center has been at 100 percent usage for their time, which is divided between three counselors. The other two are Virginia Kasser and Joanne Scott.
The Counseling Center is on a tight schedule for the last two weeks of most terms, though Larson said they try to leave a few spots open.
Students typically are allotted 15 appointments with a counselor per year or five per term, but that is not written in stone.
Krietzman thought the problem overall stems from the way people at Knox push themselves into over-commitments.
“You have to learn to be like, ‘Okay, you can’t conquer the world today,’” Worthen said.
Larson said that the key to trying to handle problems before they seem too large to handle is balance.
“A lot of times, students will focus all on academics and not at all on the social part, or the opposite,” he said. “The balance is different for everybody.”