NKU sees increase in counseling sessions

Karen Plunkett, Reporter

“I was bullied a lot in school; I was the bigger child who always got picked last in gym class.” Kyle Rhodes, a senior EMB major who started battling depression at the age of 13, said.

Rhodes remembers when his depression was at its worst.

“I would just sit in my room with the lights off, it was pretty sad now that I think about it,” Rhodes said.

With the help of friends and his new found love of music, there are only a couple days a month where he slips back into his depression from the stresses of college. Rhodes uses his musical talent and writing skills to create songs dedicated to people who are going through a rough time and feel just as he did when he was in a dark place of his life.

“I want to be the outlet for people who need a voice and who can’t speak up for themselves,” Rhodes said.

The top mental illnesses that college students suffer from are depression and anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Forty million U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder and 75 percent of them experience their first episode of anxiety by age 22.

Lisa Barresi, the associate director of counseling services, says that going through a transition can bring stress.

“The stress of coming to college and transitioning to adulthood is a big step in a person’s life; there is a lot of change and a lot of unknown which can be very overwhelming for a lot of people,” Barresi said.

Mental illness is common among college students because the transition into adulthood and college life is a natural time to bring stuff up for students who have managed the issues in their life okay up until this point according to Barresi.

“With all the transitioning into adulthood and college, the stresses can stir the pot sometimes for students, so what they were able to manage before isn’t exactly working now,” Barresi said.


Services NKU provides

The Health, Counseling and Student Wellness center provides services to students to help them cope with and manage their mental illness among other issues they may need guidance with such as individual counseling sessions, group counseling sessions, they do physiological assessments, they have outreach programs such as QPR suicide prevention trainings and also do presentations to educate students on a variety of mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

There is also a staff member who is an expertise in alcohol and drug issues which people can go to if they are dealing with those drug or alcohol issues along with urgent care assistance to students and a number of community sources to be referred to outside of the NKU community.

There is a screening test online that anyone can take anonymously if concerned with being depressed, anxious, have alcohol, drug, or eating issues. This test can see if it would be helpful to seek treatment.


Breaking the Stigma

In the presentations Barresi always talks about the myths of counseling. One myth is that people think they have to be really bad off to go to counseling.

“The reality is that we see students in crisis but for a large majority of students come in for counseling that are pretty typical normal struggles that a college age student has and counseling can be a really helpful resource,”Barresi said.

Another myth about counseling is that the person may feel like a failure; Barresi sees counseling as the opposite.

“It’s a real strength when someone sees they are struggling and realizing they need to do something different in order to help themselves,” Barresi said.  

Although Rhodes was able overcome his depression before college, for some young adults college is a big factor in bringing a mental illness to the surface whether that individual had previously been diagnosed or have yet to be diagnosed with a mental illness.

Jessica Ulrich, a sophomore psychology major, who battles depression along with anxiety has taken advantage of the services NKU provides for their students.

“I started going to individual counseling here last semester, it has helped me with dealing with my depression and anxiety and helps me to feel that I’m in a safe place,” Ulrich said.


Increase in counseling sessions at NKU

NKU has seen an increase in students seeking help according to Barresi, We had 200 more counseling sessions when comparing the first eight weeks of school last year to this year.

Some students are referred to counseling by a faculty, staff, friend, or family member, but most students are self-referred. For counseling to be helpful it is important for the person to want to come in voluntarily.  

“I’ve worked here for almost 20 years and I do think that over the years more students know someone else who has been in counseling, which I think can help them feel more comfortable about coming in themselves,” Barresi said.

Ulrich knows from first hand experience that reaching out is the way to begin healing.

“It does get better but you have to take the next step and realize that getting help is the best step and NKU is a great place to start.” Ulrich said

Psychologist Randall Cutler is one of the main leaders in the group counseling sessions.

“Group can be a great way for other’s to support each other and also give advice if they have been through something similar that another student is dealing with now,” Cutler said. “It’s also a way to realize a person is not alone in their struggles and that there are other students who are dealing with the same or similar struggles.”

If you are struggling with any issue, whether it is a mental illness or not you can get help at NKU’s Health, Counseling, and Student Wellness Center. Remember you are not alone in your struggles and there is help right here on campus.