One of our readers recently posted a poignant comment after reading “Stress Tends to Spill” last week in which she stated that “students should strongly consider seeking out their counseling center on campus. They don’t need to be going through a crisis before they seek this help; they can just go to have someone to talk with.” Here at Spill, we couldn’t agree with her more. In fact, most therapists and counselors would agree that no problem is too small for a visit to see a counselor. And yet, we have found that a huge chunk of student spillers feel as though their problem wasn’t serious enough to visit the counseling center. There is still a huge stigma around mental health issues, and college students are not immune to that stigma.
Stigma can come in many forms, not the least of which is most damaging is when it creates self doubt or shame. This can be shame around one’s feelings, or around admitting to what we’re struggling with, and it can also mean shame around asking for help. But it doesn’t have to!
We ask student spillers the following question: “Would you have gone to a counselor for this problem?” A large number of those students report that “the problem was not serious enough for them to go to the counseling center.” More specifically, our data compares students who are writing about their loneliness struggles and students writing about struggles other than loneliness. It demonstrates that many students across the country do not believe their problem is “serious enough” for the counseling center.
What we share with members of the greater Spill community is the belief that no problem is too serious for a counselor. It is natural to experience a whole host of emotions and struggles during your time in college. And sometimes, students may need to talk with other students who’ve been through the same things to know that everything will be okay. Other students may need to seek out a counselor as well.
At the end of the day, we will know we have done our best if we continue to offer and to then share the resources that are available to students. The counseling center is a great place to start. Why? Because counselors are oftentimes aware of the resources available within the context of the greater college campus community. If the student needs some other source of support, the counselor will likely be able to make an appropriate referral recommendation.
Seeing a counselor doesn’t make you crazy. It doesn’t mean you should be shipped off to the proverbial nuthouse either. It means you’re courageous. You’re brave enough to recognize that you’re struggling; to ask for help; to articulate what it could be that you’re going through; to accept some help in your life that’s available to you. It also makes you a great example of someone that those who might want to seek out some help but haven’t yet found the courage can look up to.
It can be incredibly liberating, cathartic even, to sit down for an hour and talk freely about what you’re going through, no judgments included. And no matter what you’re going through or how hard it can be to open up to someone, I can say from firsthand experience that it feels good to let someone in, and to maybe even learn something (or ten things!) about yourself along the way.