For college students, the end of the semester often comes with extra anxiety: final exams, research papers and lining up internships or summer jobs. According to the American Psychological Association, 1 in 3 first-year college students reported symptoms of a diagnosable mental illness in 2018. Of those, few seek treatment. Now, colleges and universities in the Ozarks are taking steps to help.
David Dooling, a first-year graduate student at Missouri State University in Springfield, knew he wasn’t feeling well.
He eventually sought help for himself through the free counseling at the MSU Counseling Center.
“I had not only an outlet for all of those issues, but it was blended in with my course load at Missouri State. So it was kind of just this easy thing to get out of a class, and walk to the counseling center where I could, you know, have a productive conversation about my health,” Dooling said.
He said making the decision to get help is one of the hardest steps.
Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College both offer free counseling to students on their campuses.
The director of the counseling center at MSU, Rhonda Lesley, urges students who feel like they may have symptoms of a mental health condition – even if they aren’t sure – to schedule an appointment.
“The sooner you get help when you need it, the more effective the care will be, the sooner you’re going to be coping better, feeling better. So, early access to care is certainly important.” Lesley said.
Students enrolled full-time at MSU have access to up to 20 free counseling sessions a year – eight in the fall semester, eight in the spring semester and four in the summer.
The amount of counseling sessions available to OTC students varies from student to student.
And both institutions encourage their faculty to keep an eye out for signs of mental illness in their students, including Depression and anxiety disorders.
OTC’s Dean of Students Joyce Bateman says the signs can vary.
“So there’s lots of warning signs. That can be anything from a student who previously was doing well academically and attending or participating online, and then they suddenly disappear or their attendance drops off; a student who may have been more animated in class then suddenly they’re not participating, they’re sitting in the back of the class,” Bateman said.
Some warning signs are more specific, like students coming to class in tears, or with visible injuries—or students who have behavioral issues in the classroom.
And both schools have what’s called a behavioral intervention team. That’s a group that meets regularly to find solutions for specific students having mental health or behavioral problems.
Both OTC and MSU say they can refer students to community resources if additional help is needed.
If you or someone you know is currently experiencing a mental health crisis and is unable to meet with a counselor, you can call the Access Crisis Intervention Hotline at 1-800-494-7355.