It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The front lawn glistens with thousands of lights, and buildings around campus gleam with decorations that spread holiday cheer. While holiday decorations plaster campus with Christmas spirit, my fear is that Harding’s student body faces a much darker mental state than the decorations suggest.
The days following Thanksgiving break are filled with due dates, exams and final presentations. If you’re anything like me, you spent Thanksgiving break grasping for a true moment of rest that eluded you because of your constant anxiety about the deadlines that would inevitably come when you returned to school. One thing I’ve learned after four years of Thanksgiving breaks: true rest does not exist during Thanksgiving break.
So, while campus certainly boasts an impressive holiday atmosphere, I probably won’t be enjoying it much before the close of the semester. I believe this is only one of the many signs of the toll that college life takes on the mental wellness of college students.
In April 2014, USA Today published an article titled “Students flood college counseling offices.” This article suggested a reality that scholastic research is backing up: college campus counselors are facing record highs in their number of clients, and these students come with more serious problems than ever before. The conclusion that I draw from this article: college students are messed up.
We’re messed up, but no one seems to be talking about it. Stress, anxiety and depression are leaders in mental health disorders among college students, and these disorders make their way into the classroom in one way or another. In a presentation published by the counseling center at the University of South Florida, for example, the counseling center concluded that eight of the top 10 academic impediments are mental health related.
Clearly, there is something about the college atmosphere that stifles our efforts to live a mentally healthy lifestyle. Students and professors alike will admit to the tangible drop in motivation and energy as the burdens of each semester press on, particularly after Thanksgiving break. Project deadlines mixed with the pressure of performance and its effect on our futures certainly doesn’t help put us in a mentally healthy state.
I’m not suggesting that we need to rethink the educational system — deadlines and exams are inevitable. I do think, however, that the minefield of mental hardships that the college experience fosters is worth bringing to light.
What can be done about these mental hardships? The most important thing is that we talk about them. We, as students, must overcome our fear of sharing our struggles with others. Harding offers a counseling center that is filled with faith-driven counselors waiting to walk you through the stress and anxiety that are so common to the college experience.
Not only that, but we have the incredible opportunity to be in community with other Christians at every turn on campus. Whether it’s your roommate or a faculty mentor, find other people that can step into your hardships with you and speak truth and encouragement into your life.
With a community that is ready to surround you in your times of struggle, perhaps you can walk through these last couple weeks with a bit more Christmas cheer in your heart. After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year.