Bogged down by impending deadlines, final exams and essays, UNC Asheville students trek through a waterlogged campus, grim-faced, adjusting heavy backpacks. Only weeks ago, the Quad was full of smiling faces and autumn leaves, but crunch time has arrived.
Increased stress and too little study time can contribute to anxiety and push students towards abusing ADHD medications like Adderall or contemplating suicide.
“I think that the main reason college students start abusing these drugs is because they are really stressed and we feel the drive to do well in our classes that overwork us for no reason,” said UNC Asheville transfer student Sidney Jones, running her fingers through her hair and sighing.
Jones said students feel pressured because of high expectations and self-imposed standards, so they take drugs to avoid falling behind.
Jackie McHargue, dean of students at UNC Asheville, said she worries students push themselves beyond their limits, taking on more than they can handle and ignoring the effects on their mental health until it’s too late.
Following several recent student suicides that devastated North Carolina campuses and families, McHargue said students need to realize the campus has outlets to provide help if needed.
“If you are struggling on any level emotionally, go see someone in our counseling center. You shouldn’t wait until you’re an absolute wreck,” McHargue said. “They can really provide skills and great resources to help prevent you from reaching that point.”
UNCA officials from the Counseling Center said they assess students’ mental health needs, before recommending services like individual and group therapy sessions. They offer workshops to help students manage stress and anxiety, and assist students battling addiction via support groups like alcoholics and narcotics anonymous.
In a 2011 study by the American College Health Association, more than 6 percent of college students said they seriously consider suicide, with around 1 percent attempting suicide in the past year.
Colleges have begun increasingly focusing on depression and suicide. North Carolina State University recently hosted its second annual Suicide Prevention Vigil in the wake of the recent suicide of one of its students.
Officials at NC State’s counseling center urge students to use #StopTheStigma in order to persuade more depressed students to seek help before their mental state gets out of hand.
“Sometimes we’re trained to not ask for help and that’s just the biggest message I think I would want students to hear,” McHargue said. “Just ask, talk to people, tell people that you’re struggling, and don’t be afraid to ask for help because the resources are here.”
, assistant professor, speaks highly of Merritt Moseley, chair of the literature and language department, and says he is an excellent faculty member to go to if you need to talk.
“He’s very good at mentoring younger faculty and students and telling them all sorts of stories that in the classic sense are full of little bits of wisdom on how to succeed and be happy,” said Boyle.
McHargue said an extremely important factor when dealing with stress and depression is to be realistic when it comes to triggers, and to make sure to avoid them as best as possible.
“If you’re not healthy and well and you aren’t doing all right in school, then you’re going to be less helpful for those that you’re trying to support,” McHargue said. “What can happen is that you wind up not being here, so now you don’t get to support anybody.”
Although the stigma around mental health is present, Jones views UNCA as an accepting community.
“At UNCA I felt like social stigmas placed on mental issues were certainly torn down; however, you have to remember that not every environment is perfect, so there will still be some perpetuating of them,” Jones said. “Hopefully with a little more time, those notions will be completely broken down.”