With all the changes, new experiences, and stresses that come with being a college student, we’re bound to have some inner turmoil come up at some point. For many, this feeling is unexpected and a little scary. For others, this inner turmoil has been around for a while and we just haven’t done anything about it yet.
Maybe you’re reading this, and you feel like it doesn’t pertain to you because you don’t have any major “issues” or concerns that you need to talk about or want to work out and, in your mind, you’re fine. That being said, it’s important to note that taking care of your mental health doesn’t have to begin with a big issue – it could be something that starts with getting to know yourself better or just meeting with someone as a way to “check-up” on your mental health. Whether you’ve felt like you need help, or you just want to check-up on your mental health, MC’s Counseling and Disability Department is a great place for you to turn to.
I had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Bryant, the Director of the Counseling and Disability Department here at MC, this week to discuss what her department has to offer the students of MC. Dr. Bryant has been a counselor for a total of ten years. She spent her first three years as a graduate assistant counselor at Ole Miss while working on her PhD and has been at MC for almost seven years.
One thing about MC's Counseling and Disability Department is that it's completely free of charge for any full-time student. This includes Undergraduates, Graduates Students, and Law School Students. Dr. Bryant encourages students to take advantage of counseling now, because when we graduate, counseling is very expensive.
After finding out that counseling is free of charge for students, I asked Dr. Bryant how often/ how long a student can receive counseling here. This was her response,
So, our center is more of a short-term, solution focused clinic. Usually what happens is a student comes in and we start with the finish line. This is not a long-term thing where we see the student for several years.
I see counseling as something that ends. Most of our students come in and they see a counselor every week for about six weeks and then we gradually kind of extend it out to meeting once every three weeks or once a month. We believe students can get better. We want students to develop social networks and friends that they can go off and talk to on their own after receiving our help. Some students need a little bit longer, but for the most part we are a little faster than that. Some students come in multiple times and some students only come in once. However, we don’t put a session limit on students – we think some people need more than just a set number of sessions. We see this as a time to take care of the whole person.
When it comes to taking those first steps in receiving counseling, many students tend to talk themselves out of it because they feel that their issues/concerns aren't a big enough deal. Dr. Bryant explained that you don't have to have some "huge concern or issue" to receive counseling. You can come in for any reason. Here is what Dr. Bryant had to say about this,
It can be anything from relationship issues, problems with a roommate, or missing home, to trauma from childhood, abusive relationships, and eating disorders. I think we see the same type of things, as far as mental health, that any other normal clinic would see.
The presenting problem we see with students is anxiety and that is pretty typical of most colleges’ counseling centers. You know, college can be so exciting, but it can also be terrifying, and we also put the pressure of “you have to do this in four years.” So, you’re changing your life and your environment and we’re basically putting you in a pressure cooker, so all the things you’ve struggled with kind of come to the surface and that can make a student feel the need to come here and see about getting some help.
As I sat across from Dr. Bryant, it was easy to see her passion the mental health of students here at MC and for people in general. She has a very high respect for others and for their knowledge of their own struggles and feelings. This became even more apparent when I asked her what her goals are for each student she sees. This was her response,
My main goal is that the students’ goals are met. I feel like the student knows what they need and what’s best for them. I’m just kind of walking alongside that goal with them. If they feel like they’ve gotten better, then my job is done. If we’ve helped the student feel empowered, then I’m happy. If I can somehow give you that feeling that you make good decisions, then I’m happy. I want to walk alongside the student so that they can see those wonderful qualities within themselves. I’m working with adults who know themselves and know their goals much better than I do and I really just want to walk alongside that.
At the end of our conversation, I asked Dr. Bryant what she wanted students to know about MC's Counseling Services. She first said that she wants the students to know that counseling is completely free of charge and that it is also confidential as long as it isn't harmful to you or someone else. She then said something that meant a lot to me and I believe would mean a lot to other students as well:
I would also like them to know that students are adults. They are allowed to explore what they want to explore. It’s a safe place. Nothing really shocks us here. There is really not much you could tell me that would be a huge shock or anything like that. I want this to be a place where they feel love, compassion, care, and no judgment.
I also want to encourage students that you don’t have to have some major thing in your life going on to come and receive counseling. I think it’s a place to help someone grow. I think the healthiest people are the ones that want to take that wellness and wholeness approach to self-care and I want more students to do that.
Just like God gave us doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and physical trainers, He also gave us counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and friends. I want to encourage you to take advantage of this time in your life where you can literally become whoever it is that you’re meant to be and to take care of mental health while you’re doing it. It’s important that we focus on our health as a whole – not in different compartments.
Talking about physical health is pretty easy and common, but I’ve found that most people struggle to discuss mental health. I would love to see an increase in the discussion of mental health as it is something that tends to go unnoticed and can leave many people who are struggling feeling alone.
As Dr. Bryant said, it really doesn’t matter if you have some major thing in your life going on or not – it’s important to just take the time to take care of your whole being and that includes your mental health.
Definitely taking those first few steps towards mental health