February 8, 2012

Mental instability high among freshmen

Figures from a national survey indicate an increase in freshmen demonstrating social anxiety and depression.

During orientation week, freshmen were given a voluntary survey on behalf of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. The survey was intended to collect data, from religious orientation to study habits, on the incoming freshman classes at various colleges and universities across the country.

Students were also asked questions pertaining to their mental well-being, as well as how often they felt emotionally strained. According to the survey, which took note of the percentage of students who responded that they “frequently” engaged in an action, 44.8 percent of students admitted to “drinking wine or liquor,” 35.3 percent “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” and 16.1 “felt depressed.”

Upon receiving the results of the survey, the Admissions, Retention and Placement Committee (ARP) recognized an increase in the number of freshmen demonstrating signs of mental instability.

Sophomore Shelly Bhanot, who sits on ARP, indicated that the committee took note of the increases but will not take any further immediate action.

“I think the most significant initial reaction was to the depression and emotional stability numbers. … We’ve noticed the fact that the counselors are always really busy, and a lot of students use these resources. We can consider using some funds to expand these resources, but considering the other projects we’ve been looking at, it’s not too high on our priority list,” Bhanot said.

Director of Student Counseling and Associate Dean of Students Dan Larson mentioned that the results made him reevaluate the distribution of counseling usage among the four classes.

“The thing I thought about first is what we’re seeing here in the counseling center. We’re pretty even among all four classes. First-years might be identifying themselves as more stressed or anxious, but we’re pretty even,” Larson said.

Larson indicated that the more intriguing factor was the increase in the presence of social anxiety. The survey indicated that while 64.3 percent of students feel like they have strong intellectual self-confidence, only 37.8 percent feel the same way about their social self-confidence.

“Anxiety is something we’ve been seeing more over the past two years, either with students demonstrating signs or coming out and saying that they have social anxiety,” Larson said. “Over the last two years, we’ve seen a one or two percent increase in people coming in to the counseling center, which follows the national trend.”

Neither Bhanot nor Larson felt the need for a response by the administration, citing that the best way to respond is to ensure that students understand that aid is available through the counseling center whenever they see fit.

“On the administrative front, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing in terms of all students knowing about what we have in the health and counseling centers,” Larson said. “We’re making sure that more students are aware of what’s available by talking to RAs and students during orientation week.”

Bhanot also pointed to new software available for faculty to analyze retention trends.

“We are reinstating a new student organization software, a shift from the original Jenzabar software, which will help faculty get student profiles and help us analyze trends in retention. It’ll help teachers see general student history, like their grades and behavioral history,” Bhanot said.

The results of the survey are not indicative of the freshmen population or the Knox student body as a whole, according to Larson, who followed by saying that there is no standardized method for helping students who display traits relative to social anxiety or depression.

“Really, we take it on a student by student basis. Anxiety and depression can stem from a wide array of reasons,” Larson said. “Some students seek help from individual sessions, and then maybe look at medication depending on the severity.”

A student’s lifestyle also plays a role in their mental and emotional stability, according to Larson.

“Having a good support system is always important, whether it be family, friends, counselors or close faculty. It’s also a good idea to watch your sleeping, eating and exercising; those aren’t cure-alls, but healthy habits play a factor into mental well-being,” Larson said.

Julian Boireau
Julian Boireau is a senior majoring in international relations and minoring in French. This is his fourth year working for TKS, having served as co-news editor during his sophomore and junior years. He has been involved in journalism for seven years, serving as opinions editor of the newspaper and editor-in-chief of the literary magazine at Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles, California. In September 2012, Julian received press credentials to attend the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, where he reported on remarks by President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He is also the recipient of back-to-back first place awards from the Illinois College Press Association for front page layout.

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