Counseling available for students

By Teresa Sewell

As Julie Gerding flipped through her literature notes in the Illini Union Thursday afternoon, she figured there was no way she was ever going to be prepared for her upcoming exam that will ask her to identify passages of philosophical writings.

Gerding, a junior in LAS, jokingly admits there are times where she “shoots herself down” before she even begins studying – a habit that many college students have that can lead to feelings of inadequacy and possibly depression.

She has learned how to become a better student over the years at the University, but says she can relate to those students who let college pressures get them down.

“I always sleep more during midterm season,” she said. “It’s harder to stay focused and keep your spirits up.”

While student depression is a complicated feeling that can be emotional and physical, it usually stems from increased responsibility, stress over exams and being away from home, psychologists say.

It can be easy to fall into a state of hopelessness, but there are resources on campus like the Counseling Center that can pick students back up. Located in the Student Services Building, 610 E. John St., the Center sees between 50 to 60 new students each week, while providing regular counseling to 2,000 students.

“Mild to moderate depression that happens as a result from what’s happening in people’s lives is common,” said Dr. John Powell, associate director at the Center. “Mid-semester is when a lot of people start expressing it. It’s when people realize that they’re falling behind in their classes, have term papers due at the same time, and the weather starts to change.”

He said students may begin to have mood swings, dislike the things they usually enjoy, get too much or not enough sleep, and develop bad eating habits.

“These are the sort of milder kinds of symptoms of depression that can start kind of slowly and build to not wanting to get out bed for a couple of days – and not wanting to be around people,” he said.

For cases that seem more severe, the Center refers them to McKinley Health Center.

Those cases include students who haven’t been to class in weeks and cannot get out bed in the morning.

“Sometimes there’s just way too much stuff to do,” said TJ Ahearn, a senior in Aviation.

But knowing he has only one semester left keeps him from worrying too much.

“It’s all going to end sometime,” he said. “It’s not the end of the world. It’s just homework and school.”

Powell appreciates that many students who can’t handle it come to the Center versus being afraid to talk to counselors.

Students usually call at 7:50 a.m. to make an appointment.

Lately, all of the afternoon sessions are booked 30 minutes later.

Powell believes students have a habit of making situations seem worse than they really are.

“If I can’t do better on the next test, then I’ll fail this course,” Powell said students sometimes think. “And if I fail this course, I can’t stay in this major or I’m not going to make it in this career.”

“Pretty soon that test grade has implications for the rest of your life,” he said. “It’s a domino effect and the students believe they have no future.”

Gerding said talking to professors and doing assignments earlier can help.

She regularly works out and brings her notes along with her, reviewing them at times like when she’s running on the treadmill.

She also avoids staying up all night studying for a class and being too tired to go the next morning, like she did her freshman year.

Powell said healthier lifestyles can prevent students from feeling defeated by school.

“Everyone struggles every once in a while,” he said. “That’s the nature of college. But it’s important to seek the appropriate resources (if it gets out of control).”