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Students often ignore blatant signs to seek psychological support for serious issues 

You know counseling is stigmatized when the boy sitting across from you in the waiting room pretends to be feverishly engrossed in Allure magazine just so that he can avoid eye contact.  For some reason, we have equated going to counseling with identifying ourselves as the friendly neighborhood psycho.

She goes to therapy?  Oh thank God, I’ve been calling that one for years.  What’s it now, schizophrenia?  Pill-popping?  Suicide?  Maybe they’ll finally pack her off to the mental ward.

Or,  if you’re not a psycho,  then the only other alternative is that you are a complete failure at handling life.  That pansy’s going to counseling?  No wonder, he would cry over the death of a fly.  I always knew I should buy him a lifetime supply of tissues; maybe this Christmas I’ll actually go through with it.

We like to think we’ve evolved, but we haven’t.  We’re really just a bunch of superstitious animals.  If we can’t see the problem, we’re afraid of it.  We can’t see the mind very well, so it petrifies us.

What do we do when we encounter difficulties with the body?  We go to the doctor.  What do we do when we encounter difficulties with the mind?  We make up nasty rumors about people who go to the therapist.

The problem with stigmatizing counseling is that people don’t go.  They hide in a corner and hope the issue magically goes away.  Let me be blunt: if you don’t do anything about it, it’s not going to go away. It’s going to get worse.

If you start hacking up blood, you don’t just crawl into bed and say, “Oh, but this will take care of itself.  Just give me some time and some Motrin, I’ll be up and chipper tomorrow.”  No.

We haul ourselves to the emergency room and figure out what the heck is wrong.  If you ignore your mental difficulties, they aren’t going to go away either.

Crawling into bed is not a healing agent no matter how much we may fantasize that it is.

Facing our issues is especially relevant in college,  simply because there are so many of them.  College, despite what some people may think, can be a challenging time.  It isn’t just a four-year drinking hiatus.  At least, not for most of us.  Below are a few of the most common situations a college student will have to face.

First there’s the roommate situation.  Most people come to college never having had to share a room before.  The surest way to hate someone is to move in with them.

If you’re lucky, you’re sharing a 10’x15’ foot room with one other person; if fate hates you, you’re sharing it with two.

What does a small space plus multiple people equal?  Issues.  If you don’t stop using five consecutive alarms to wake up every day, I swear I’m going to throw your phone into the toilet one morning.

If you don’t start wiping up the layer of hairs covering my counter, I’m going to start putting them on your tooth brush instead of mine.

If you don’t stop sexiling me all the time, I’m going to book this room with every booty call in my phone for the next month.

The truth is, it’s really hard living with someone.  Maybe you could use some advice for how to deal with it.  Think about it.

Then there’s the drinking.  Drinking is a major part of the college culture at any school.  And no one knows how to handle it.  Hey, you look familiar, did I meet you last night?  Oh wait, I can’t remember because I’ve blacked out the 10 last consecutive times I’ve drank.  What’s more risky, sitting mutely in class or choosing to participate while still drunk from last night?  Oh I know, I’ll choose a happy medium, and sit far away so the professor can’t smell the alcohol on my breath when I speak.  Hmm, do you think drinking five nights a week constitutes being an alcoholic, or is there a kinder way we can label this?  Maybe I should check this out now before my GPA goes down the trash or my liver fails permanently.

Then there’s the issue of friends.  Most people come to college knowing no one.  What does this make you?  Really desperate.

And I mean, really.  You will befriend any living creature that happens to cross your path, so long as it guarantees that you don’t have to eat dinner alone in the Spit.

The problem is, quality outcomes aren’t usually born out of desperate choices.  Sure, maybe you have a couple of friends from freshman year who happened to be both desperate choices and decent human beings, but you probably won’t have the luxury to pick friends of quality until sophomore year.  What else does this make you?  Really lonely.

Maybe you’re still worried about finding friends.  Maybe you’re still in the “adjustment” phase, which, by the way, is much longer than you think.

Whatever the case, maybe you can ease some of these anxieties, or problems, or questions through counseling.  Let’s be real, people.  Counseling is not cheap.

This is the only moment in your life where you will find a counselor ready and waiting to assist you—for free.  Do I need to repeat myself?  This is free.  And I don’t know about you, but I encounter free things so rarely that it makes me want to cry sometimes. So why aren’t you going?  Every problem is worth talking about.  Well, let me modify that.  Most problems are worth talking about.

You probably shouldn’t have to go to a therapist to tell them about every thought or dream that enters your head.  Trust me, they’re not very important.  But for the real difficulties, or problems, or questions that you encounter, you should go.  If I can show my face at the counseling center, so can you.

And I’m not crazy … at least, not that I know of, but the future could bring some interesting revelations.

Mary Finnegan is a junior English major from Washington, N.J. She can be reached at mfinnega@villanova.edu. 

 
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