When trauma strikes

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Depression and Anxiety were reported by students to be among the top impediments to academic performance according to an American College Health Association report released in 2011. On top of struggles with mental health, college-aged students are at high-risk to face a traumatic event during their time as a student. Students who have joined the military or who participate in rescue related jobs are likely to experience trauma. Incidence of physical violence and sexual assault is also higher among young adults. A study in the APA journal titled Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research Practice, and Policy reports that 66 percent of college students reported having experienced a traumatic event.

Any number of events or circumstances can inhibit a student’s ability to perform academically. Every student should be aware that regardless of the root of their mental or emotional distress, there are resources readily available to him or her.

Where Can I go for Help?

UVU therapist, John Catlett advises that if at any time you discover you are struggling with significant areas of their life such as school, work, and/or relationships this could be an indicator that you might benefit from seeking professional help.

The Student Health Center offers one-on-one counseling sessions that will cost you less than your weekend dinner-and-a-movie date. The therapists are comprised of licensed psychologists and social workers who are well versed in applying researched techniques to aid students facing mental health issues and/ or trauma.

Current wait time for therapy sessions can be as long as three weeks. Some students simply cannot wait that long, so the school is also offering free, group therapy sessions four times a week. Women’s group therapy is also available separately on Mondays at 5 pm.

“Group therapy can be a great option in order to receive therapy in a more timely fashion,” said Laura Heaphy, a licensed Psychologist at the Student Health Center, “however, group therapy is not appropriate for every student.”

Heaphy goes on to explain that not all students are great candidates fro group sessions. Those who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or are recent victims of sexual assault should utilize emergency, walk-in appointments available to students in these types of circumstances.

What about my grades?

Academic Advisors are also available to help. Students who are upfront with their advisors and professors about their circumstances will be directed to resources to help them succeed.

“Some students struggling with their mental health, qualify for accommodations through Accessibility Services,” said Academic Advisor, Allison Hurst. “This could be in the form of a note-taker or extended time on tests or use of an empty room at the testing center.”

Students who have a medical history of depression, anxiety, or PTSD can contact Accessibility Services to learn more about how to access these accommodations.

“If you are really struggling academically,” said Hurst, “we always recommend that you talk to your professors. This can be really difficult depending on what personal issues you are dealing with, but most of them are willing to work with you.”

Students who are in over their heads with late-work or poor attendance often have the option to take an incomplete or can petition to withdraw with a doctor’s note.

Hurst finally points out that every student should be proactive when planning his or her schedules. Plan class during the time of day that you are most alert. Be careful about overloading yourself with a lot of difficult courses in one semester. If you notice your focus drifting during a semester, consider taking a stress or time-management class (free through the student health center). The school offers myriad resources to help you with healthy eating, exercise, and academic performance—all of these can contribute to your ability to face mental health or trauma.

What about the Stigma?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, concern about stigma is the number one reason that students do not seek help when they need it.

Recognizing how normal it is to experience these things is a major step in overcoming the fear of stigma. 1 in 4 young adults have a diagnosable mental illness and as stated above, 66 percent of college students report experiencing trauma.

Finally, remember that you are not your condition.

“I remember being so frustrated during my time as a student. I had always felt like I was a capable and intelligent person but I just couldn’t focus on anything during school. I was always distracted,” said Ben Glade, a UVU graduate and advocate
for survivors of abuse. “It made me feel like I was just a bad student and college wasn’t meant for me.

Ben failed classes, and he dropped out multiple times, but he was eventually able to work through the trauma that was causing his struggles by using a number of the resources referenced above.