As the seasons continue to change, many people are looking forward to the colder months and the holiday cheer that comes with them. Others, however, begin their yearly battle with mental health issues, brought about by the indoor isolation of winter. To alleviate some of these difficulties, the Grand Valley State University Counseling Center has cultivated a variety of services to help students navigate their mental health during this time.
According to recent studies, approximately ten million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that often occurs during the winter months. Those struggling with SAD usually experience symptoms that vary from feeling distressed or overwhelmed to being unable to perform daily responsibilities, for 40% of the calendar year.
However, students don’t have to be diagnosed with SAD to experience mental, physical or academic difficulty during the colder parts of the year. Fall and winter months also signify the start of exam season, one of the most stressful periods for a college student.
“As we go from summer into fall and winter, some people’s moods may change, and some may feel more depressed,” said Director of Clinical and Crisis Services Eric Klingensmith“It can range from people struggling more with feeling sad or irritable, to affecting concentration and energy levels.”
The GVSU Counseling Center is offering services year-round to help students manage their mental health. Although the center is often associated with work in short-term individual therapy, they offer a continuum of care specific to the needs of each student.
“We have some self-guided videos and seminars on our website that deal with stress, anxiety and other mental health-related things,” Klingensmith said. “We also do a lot of workshops in groups, and students learn how to develop skills concerning mental and emotional health there.”
Over the years, the Counseling Center has developed a series of online modules and workshops for student self-help, which contain information on mental health and illnesses, self-care and even COVID-19 specific stressors. The activities are available 24/7, so students are able to complete them at their own time and pace.
“Honestly, I had no idea this type of mental health care was available to students,” said GVSU senior Becca Oleskie. “I think it’s important that students realize there are accessible resources out there if they’re struggling.”
In addition to their online presence, the Counseling Center has also prepared some in-person events concerning mental health. This Tuesday, Nov. 9 marks their monthly QPR workshop, which is suicide prevention training, which aims to help students better understand the beliefs behind suicide.
Additionally, in their weekly series “Let’s Talk”, students are given the chance to informally talk with counselors about therapy or about a specific problem. Lastly, staff members at the Counseling Center supervise AOD Healthy Habits, an alcohol and drug use drop-in program where students can take a closer look at substance consumption. All upcoming and future events can be found on their website under the tab “For Students.”
The Counseling Center has provided a wide range of mental health tools; however, the first steps toward a healthy mind can be taken by students.
“We need to make taking care of ourselves a priority, and I believe balance is really important,” Klingensmith said. “We need to get enough sleep, eat well and stay active, but also take enough breaks to give ourselves time to recharge.”
For more information on GVSU mental health resources, visit https://www.gvsu.edu/counsel/