Mental health resources important part of college life

Published 8:30 pm Friday, October 20, 2017

Mental health issues are becoming more prevalent in college-age students.

The nonprofit Active Minds estimates that 1 in 4 adults has a diagnosable mental health disorder, and roughly three-fourths of serious illnesses present themselves by the age of 25.

Kimberly Jackson, director of counseling at Beaufort County Community College, said the following are the most common problems she sees: stress associated with balancing work, family and school; depression; anxiety (social, general or test); relationship issues; family problems; and emotional stress related to academic problems and financial struggles.

“Coupled with the stress of deciding which career to pursue and ultimately commit to, the rigor of college-level work and sometimes family and/or work pressures, college can be a breeding ground for emotional challenges,” Jackson explained.

The data appears to agree. A 2013 report by the American College Health Association found almost one-third of college students experienced depression to the point of having trouble functioning in everyday life. That same study also found more than 80 percent of college students report feeling overwhelmed with their responsibilities over the past year.

“For students entering college immediately after high school, the transition from adolescence to adulthood often has emotional growing pains including establishing independence, self-exploration and discovery and decision-making,” Jackson said. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just stop life and focus exclusively on our academic pursuit and studies? This, however, is a fantasy.”

Jackson said non-traditional students, who may be older than the typical college student, are also more likely to feel added pressure related to time constraints. A non-traditional student may feel as though this is his one chance to achieve an academic goal, or that he has a limited amount of time to do so, Jackson added.

That’s where college counseling services come in. At BCCC, there are three full-time counselors with master’s degrees who are there to help students on site, but they also offer referrals to other resources, according to Jackson.

Counselors can also help with stressful situations, such as life goals and strategies, integrating into BCCC campus life or career planning. Appointments are suggested, but walk-ins are welcome.

East Carolina University’s Center for Counseling and Student Development also offers a wide range of resources, including group, individual and couples counseling, as well as help with victim recovery, substance abuse problems and mental health-related workshops.

Counselors at ECU offer up to 12 sessions in an academic year, with many patients seeing improvement with four to five visits. CCSD will refer patients to another provider who may better assist a patient’s needs.

“Counseling is not about telling you what to do, how to feel or who to be. Rather, counseling will help you feel supported as you determine what you want to do, explore how you feel and determine who you want to be,” according to CCSD.

Despite the strides made in mental health, however, many still view it as a taboo subject. They associate seeking help with being “crazy” or perhaps view needing help as shameful.

In a previous study, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found the 18-to-24-year-old age group to be the one least likely to seek help for mental health issues.

Jackson attributes this aversion to seeking help to a couple of factors: one, the stigma surrounding counseling and mental health in general; two, the fear of opening up, fear of judgment and/or fear of the diagnosis.

Jackson said, ultimately, college students should view mental health as they would any other aspect of their health. That can help put things into perspective and eliminate negative stigmas.

“Being mentally healthy is equally as important as being physically healthy,” Jackson said. “Just as we do things to improve our overall physical health (exercise, diet, weight training), through counseling we can learn of ways to improve our mental health.”

For more information about the resources available, visit BCCC’s counseling services department in Building 9, or call 252-940-6252. To learn more about services at ECU, visit