Hurst addresses seasonal mental health concerns

Nadine Fox and Hannah Brooks

It’s getting to the point in the semester where things are wrapping up. Students are beginning to prepare for finals and create new schedules and housing plans for the upcoming year, or are planning their lives after Mercyhurst. This can lead to immense amounts of stress. On top of that, the regular stressors associated with college, accompanied by the impact of the pandemic, significantly affects the mental health of students. Many students feel the pandemic has increased their feelings of loneliness and it is incredibly common for students to struggle with mental health challenges. Mental health problems can impact academic performance and success. Poor mental health can contribute to a lack of motivation and can cause problems with focusing which can lead to failing grades. Campus-wide mental health resources for students to seek support could be the key to their academic success.

A new campus addition are the posters in bathroom stalls– a place where one may not expect to receive education about your mental health. These posters are placed in bathrooms all across campus and offer students various outlets for self care, whether it be going for a walk around campus, reflection, or heading off campus to the local community. Mercyhurst Academic Support Center is one resource available to help students achieve their academic and career goals, a common source of stress. There are free tutoring services available, and the tutoring center is also an opportunity for students to get a job on campus. College is already a stressful environment for students, especially after a years-long pandemic. While Mercyhurst offers free campus counseling at the Cohen Health Center, there are also many other options for support. To help students who are struggling with grief and loss, Campus Ministry and the Cohen Health Center will be hosting grief and loss sessions from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. on April 7, 14 and 21.

It is essential to have a campus that promotes suicide prevention and educates everyone on ways to help those who are struggling. Many students experience excessive stress, anxiety and depression. It is incredibly important to spread awareness for people to pay attention to the campus mental health resources available and take advantage of what’s available. In honor of taking care of student mental health, Mercyhurst Academic Support and Campus Ministry are giving out bubble kits, encouraging students to spend time outside blowing bubbles and enjoying nature as spring arrives and letting go of their stresses as they let the bubbles float mesmerisingly away. Students are encouraged to blow bubbles outside and post selfies with the hashtag #MUBeattheBlues.

There are a variety of other ways that students can take care of their mental health in addition to the counseling options available. Campus Ministry offers a large number of events that are available for all students to attend, including “sip & stitch” sessions, spiritual journaling and retreats. These events are open to all students, not just those who come from a specific faith background or tradition. These can be a fantastic way to reflect on yourself, as well as to take a relaxing break from school work. Students may also try joining clubs to get involved in some activities they enjoy.

Mercyhurst has a variety of different clubs students can join to do something they are passionate about and connect with people who have similar interests. Getting involved in a club and participating in something enjoyable is not only a great break from school work, but also a great way to have fun. Some clubs also have their own therapeutic values built in, such as Yoga Club and Art Therapy Club. Yoga is a really good way to take care of the mind, body and soul, while Art Therapy Club is a good way to get in touch with one’s artistry and challenge creativity. Another option is getting immersed in a new language. There is something for everybody through the RSCOs on campus.

Additionally, exercising is a wonderful way to help relieve stress and take care of mental health. There are a multitude of services available for students to take advantage of, including Zumba classes, Pilates, and so much more. The Mercyhurst community is also able to use the REC Center equipment to complete personal workouts, or even a simple walk across campus is beneficial. Per the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, exercise has been “researched and validated for treating a variety of mental issues and mental health conditions.” If you feel you do not have the time to become involved, at the very least, it is essential to focus on self-care. Self-care can mean a variety of different things for different people. Reflection and journaling may be an option; taking a bubble bath; cleaning your room; or even just knowing when it is time to take a break and say “no” to extra work can be a form of self-care. According to the NAMI website, “prioritizing self care is important– you can’t drive a car without fuel. Maintaining a self-care practice is not an act of selfishness– it is an act of improving our ability to care.”

As college students, we are faced with various stressors each day. As we work to achieve academic excellence, struggle with financial issues and try to balance a social life on top of everything else, things can begin to get heavy. It is so essential to make sure to work on “you” and focus on your own mental health to make sure that you are operating at your very best. As the effects of stress on our bodies is often discussed in many of our classes, we need to make sure we are truly listening and doing everything we can to ensure that we are at our very best health– which includes our mental health. The suggestions listed in this article are not intended to imply that any of these practices or activities will “cure” struggles related to mental illness, but it is still essential to take time to participate in activities that may improve your mental health. Please make sure to set aside some time for “you,” not every week or every month, but every single day.