Promoting healthy living and stress reduction on campus

In a survey conducted by the American College Health Association in 2006, over 43% of students felt so depressed it was difficult for them to function at least once throughout the year. While 47% of students admitted to drinking and 38% chose smoking to reduce stress, St. John’s is promoting healthy ways for students to cope with the new challenges and stresses of college life.

Dealing with stress associated to academics, time management, and family or relationship concerns, Student Wellness hopes to help students cope with these stresses.

“When you come to college, you have multiple responsibilities,” said Dr. Kathryn Hutchinson, executive director of Student Wellness. “Often in college you’re still managing all the family issues. So just because you go to college doesn’t mean the family stressors go away – they continue.”

Time management is the most significant issue students are faced with upon entering college. Students must adjust from their highly structured high school schedule to fit their new lifestyle with classes ranging from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at night. Also, numerous students do not use their off-time effectively between classes in order to succeed academically.

“Time management is a huge issue for many folks throughout their lifespan, but this is probably one of the first times it really challenges people,” said Dr. Hutchinson.

While students must find their own solutions to manage their time effectively, St. John’s offers numerous activities to help students through workshops, tutoring and events sponsored by Stressbusters.

The Stressbusters offers programs such as Wellness Wednesdays, Time Out Tuesdays, and Java Johnnie’s every Friday night as a resource to prevent mental illness and unhealthy behaviors among students. Through these activities, student program leaders come up with ideas to help students stay healthy and well-rounded throughout the year.

Marilena Minucci, the assistant director of Wellness Education needs students to understand that they must find their own way to mange stress caused by academics and time management.

“We have to engage students in many ways because what works for one might not work for the other. Ultimately it’s going to benefit their health, improve their grades, and make them feel more in touch with all their resources they have available to them,” said Minucci.

Any St. John’s student can become involved in Stressbusters by applying to the program. St. John’s also offers Wellness Peer Educators to be a role model and facilitate workshops and residents on mental health, substance abuse, eating disorders, and developing healthy relationships with one another.

“It’s all about making you healthy as a whole person and that will overall reduce your stress,” said Minucci.

The school also offers the Center for Counseling and Consultation located in Marillac Hall for students who need to talk to a professional about their issues. The center is free and confidential for students. Their health and counseling records are not in their academic files allowing the information to stay specifically in the center. Also, it offers referrals to specialists in the local area for students who wish to see a qualified councilor off campus.

Not only does the center help the individual, but hopes to educate students about mental health.

“Sometimes students may not be having the problem but their roommate, boyfriend or girlfriend is and now they have significant stress because they don’t know what to do,” said Dr. Hutchinson. “We’re called Counseling and Consultation because we consult all the time with faculty and students concerned with their own life or someone else’s so they have appropriate information.”

The website for the Counseling and Consultation center offers free screening tests for depression, bipolar disorder and other illnesses to help students understand the many disorders and symptoms.

Although the statistics from the American College Health Association do not exactly look bright, Dr. Hutchinson is confident that they show how comfortable students feel to discuss their problems with others.

“I’m hopeful that part of what we’re seeing is that students over the last 10 years are much more willing to talk about things,” said Dr. Hutchinson. “There is a stigma but some of it is lifting and that’s a very good thing.”

With the Counseling and Consultation Center as well as the numerous programs offered through Student Wellness, Dr. Hutchinson is confident that they will reach their goal and help students evade a crisis during critical times.  

“It is out there, people are aware of it,” said Dr. Hutchinson. “We need to get the message out to college students that there is help available and you are not alone.”