Various university services offer options for stressed students

Janeal Downs
Staff Writer

One outlet for stressed students  during final exam season is the University Counseling Services, which offers walk-in “crisis counseling” from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays as well as routinely scheduled sessions.

University Counseling Services is located in room 238 of the Student Commons on the Monroe Park Campus and the Grant House in room B011 on the medical campus.

Counseling services also offershelp online. Along with the counseling center, students can get assistance from the University Student Health Services, which has an part time psychiatrist who can prescribe medication for depression and anxiety, and the Wellness Resource Center.

Amanda McGann, assistant Director for Public Health Research and Education at the Wellness Resource Center, said toward the end of the semester there are many students who schedule appointments though she said they are encouraged to go to the Counseling Services or the Health Center for crisis situations.

University Counseling Services is located in room 238 of the student commons and room B011 of the Grant House. Walk-in “crisis counseling” services are available to students from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. photo by julie tripp

“The Well does more stress-management techniques, like practical techniques and tips that students can use when they’re progressing throughout the semester or when they need something in the moment, so that can include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization,” McGann said. “We do more of the education piece.”

Students who could benefit from the Well’s educational techniques may show signs of stress such as an increase or lack of appetite or sleep, feeling irritable, lack of concentration and a difference in sex drive.

“Know those early signs of stress and work to build up their toolbox for managing their stress before they’re in the midst of it all,” McGann recommended. “So learning and practicing the deep breathing or relaxation, getting exercise, getting sleep, doing all of those things and practicing those things.”

On Dec. 4 the Well will host a relaxation event in the Commonwealth Ballroom from noon to 4 p.m. McGann said the event will feature information on healthy snacks and a yoga instructor demonstrating relaxation techniques. Students can also visit the Cary Street Gym for a free chair massage on Dec. 2-4 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

“Managing stress is important because it impacts everything we do, it impacts our relationships, our ability to focus and it impacts our wellness our ability to fight off infections because it affects our immune system’s response,” McGann said.

Sophomore and biology major Carina Tatelman said she recently started utilizing VCU’s counseling services in hopes of receiving therapy for anxiety and stress management.

“Multiple times I’ve been having panic attacks, went in, and got someone to talk to within 10 minutes. So far my experiences with counseling services have been positive, the people there are always really nice and have offered me some good advice for coping with stress,” Tatelman said.

Tatelman said she looked for other places to go but concluded that counseling services was her best option because it is free, the location was more and other services had wait times as long as one or two months. She said VCU counseling services has been a “Godsend” for her.

“Their wait times aren’t too great but they got me scheduled about two weeks after my initial consultation,” she said, adding that part of the problem may have been understaffing.

Many students said they thought there was a demand for more counseling staff. With more than 30,000 students at VCU, these resources may need more personnel to meet student’s needs.

Junior Spanish major Max Landon said he thought the scheduling and appointment rules were rigid, which might negatively impact people struggling with mental disabilities.

In 2001 the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention developed a web-based method for people to anonymously connect people at risk for suicide to a counselor called the Interactive Screening Program.

On its website it is stated that 15 percent of students suffer from depression and other mental disorders which put them at risk for suicide and each year 10 percent students report they have seriously considered suicide.

“Each person who submits the questionnaire receives a personal written response from a counselor, offering options for follow-up evaluation and treatment,” the AFSP website stated.

The program also allows users to ‘dialogue’ with the counselor online, schedule a telephone or in-person meeting, or request a referral for treatment or support services anonymously.

Not only can universities use the program but also the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Boston Police Department use an adapted program through the AFSP called “the Self-Check Quiz.”

On its website, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the third leading cause of death for youths between the ages of 10 and 24 was suicide, which resulted in 4,600 lives lost each year.

“Deaths from youth suicide are only part of the problem. More young people survive suicide attempts than actually die,” the website stated.

VCU students who are or know someone who may be contemplating should go to Counseling Services, the Wellness Resource Center or VCU Health Services. The suicide prevention lifeline can also be contacted at 1-800-273-TALK.

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