Hordes of college students go to the bar or frat parties on weekends, but there is always a great percentage that struggle to do so because of social anxiety. Many others who do go out may still feel very anxious despite making the effort to go out. And that’s just going out to parties. Some people who face extreme social anxiety may even struggle to get themselves to class on a regular basis.
According to a report on NPR by Laurie Tarkan on March 28, the number of students facing anxiety is increasing to a point where colleges may not be able to accommodate everyone who needs help.
Statistically, anxiety among college students is increasing on a year-to-year basis. For example, at the University of Connecticut, the number of students who have visited counseling services nearly doubled from 1,563 in 2015-16 to 2,831 in 2016-17, the NPR story said.
“We are a very popular office,” Elizabeth J. Cracco, Ph.D., director of Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS), said in the story.
Lucy Finkelstein-Fox, a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology, said this can be attributed to the fact that there’s a lot of pressure on college campuses to succeed academically and socially.
“I think there’s a huge (academic and social) demand and UConn is a huge campus, so it’s understandable,” Finkelstein-Fox said.
Based on the statistics, Cracco isn’t wrong. But if you look inside the waiting room of CMHS you’ll see a large room with maybe only four students sprawled on comfortable couches waiting for counseling. And you probably won’t see a counselor either, unless you’ve made an appointment well in advance.
Marissa W. Kennan, an administrative office assistant at CMHS, said even one to three minutes with a counselor is not possible without an appointment.
“We are actually quite booked. You have to make an appointment about a month in advance to speak with one of the counselors,” Kennan said.
Finkelstein-Fox, who is a therapist in the psychological services clinic in the Weston A. Bousfield Psychology building, said there are alternatives on campus for people who need help but can’t get it from CMHS.
“The psychological services clinic works a little bit differently (than CMHS), but is also available to undergrads who are interested in getting help,” Finkelstein-Fox said.
Still, the question remains: Is this increase in visitors to CMHS because more and more students in the digital age are feeling anxiety, or is it because more and more students have become comfortable in reporting their anxiety?
Finkelstein-Fox said the answer may be a bit of both.
“I hope there’s more of a dialogue that’s helping people realize that treatment can be really helpful or that it can be nice to have a place to talk,” Finkelstein-Fox said. “There is research and I do think it’s definitely possible (the social media age) also has an effect on social anxiety in college students.”
Social anxiety is the top anxiety reported by college students, Tarkan said.
“There is a theory that the amount of time students are spending with technology and reduced amount of time with peers hanging out has increased the amount of anxiety they’re experiencing,” Cracco said in the NPR story.
Tarkan said UConn is working on creative ways to reach more students with less staff, including group counseling that focuses on mindfulness and teaching skills for coping with anxiety.
Chris Hanna is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @realchrishanna.