Mental health in college

Maura Linehan

“Just like when you’re sick, you go to the doctor. If you’re not doing okay — you’re feeling down or feeling anxious, or you’re dealing with any other kind of mental illness — it’s okay to come in our doors,” said Diane Dahm, Crisis Counselor and Outreach Specialist at Robert Morris University.

The mental health of college students can often be overlooked. While a student is trying to focus on learning, there may be complications in life that interfere. Unfortunately, their reaction is often to blame themselves and attempt to work even harder while ignoring the underlying issues — leading to even more difficulties.

The reality is that stress, depression and anxiety are the leading factors that impact the ability of college students to succeed. According to the students who responded to the Fall 2016 National College Health Assessment, 25 percent felt that anxiety, 32 percent felt that stress and 15 percent felt that depression had a significant impact on their school work.

The RMU Counseling Center provides students with a place to go when they need some help dealing with psychological problems or other situations. While there can be some concern about repercussions for students who visit the center, Dahm makes it clear that the focus is on helping the student address the issues and not to create more problems for them.

“We are a confidential location, which I think is really important for students to know, because we’re not here to get anyone in trouble,” Dahm said. “We are one of the only confidential offices (on campus) — Student Health and Campus Ministries are the others. If someone is sexually assaulted, they can come here and that information stays with us.”

To overcome the reluctance of many students to ask for help with their mental health, the center sponsors the THRIVE Program. Dahm serves as the advisor to the students staffing the program who work to educate their fellow students about the center’s services, and they create outreach programs that help conquer the stigma that often accompanies any discussion of mental illness.

Kimberly Smith, a senior marketing major, has been involved with the program since her sophomore year. It was her desire to make a difference that first attracted her to it, but it was what the program stood for that has kept her active.

“THRIVE has allowed me to grow and to learn more about myself through helping others and educating myself about mental health,” Smith said. “The program and everyone involved has taught me to be myself and to be as helpful as possible. Without THRIVE, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

The Counseling Center provides services to all students from their office in the lower level of Patrick Henry. Their office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For an appointment, you can email ([email protected]), call (412-397-5900) or stop in.