HomeSpecial ReportsCounseling Center offers help for those struggling with mental illness

Counseling Center offers help for those struggling with mental illness

Upwards of 450 students at Benedictine College receive counseling at the Student Health Center every year.  

Forty-five percent of the students suffer from anxiety, thirty-five percent struggle with depression, and the other twenty percent endure PTSD or another form of mental illness.

Grace Mulcahy, director of counseling services, said the number of students seeking counseling has increased every year.

According to Mulcahy, during the 2018 – 2019 academic school year they saw a 31% jump from the previous year and provided 1,700 counseling sessions.

There is two full-time staff members and four part-time members available for students. They have 100 hours a week to provide individuals and group counseling.

“Those hours were filled one week into the semester,” Mulcahy said.

Mulcahy attributes the increased need for counseling to college stress and people entering into the onset stage for mental illness in their early twenties.

“College is a time in life when you are experiencing a high level of stress, trying to balance academics, relationships, work, discerning vocations, planning for the future, etcetera,” Mulcahy said. “In times of heightened stress, symptoms of mental illness can grow and impact quality of life.”

Due to the high demand, the counseling center adjusted their treatment plans to accommodate more students. A six-session limit was implemented, and this limit is flexible based on the students situation.

Peer mentoring is offered for students who cannot be seen right away.

Four different group therapy sessions are held throughout the week, each targeting a certain need.

For students struggling with stress management in college, there is a resilience and support group that meets every Monday at 4 p.m. Each session discusses a new topic and ways to tackle the issue.

Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m., there is an Anxiety Toolbox session which gives students struggling with anxiety immediate access to resources on coping mechanisms.

There is also group therapy for men and women who struggle with pornography and sex addiction. Men and women meet separately with a private location and time in order to maintain confidentially for the students.

The peer mentoring group on campus, Ravens CARE, is also used as a source for students on the counseling waitlist.

Jennifer Schmidt, Ravens CARE advisor, created the student organization to give people an opportunity to accompany their peers that suffer from mental illness and PTSD.

“All of the training I provide to Ravens CARE peer support leaders and all of the messaging I encourage them to deliver to their peers is based on resilience,” Schmidt said. “Reminding students that even if they’re in a difficult spot, feeling defeated or broken, there’s always hope.”

Kate Caughron, senior, said that her experience as a Ravens CARE peer support leader has helped her become a better person and friend.

“I’ve learned, especially with dealing with my own griefs, that it may not be a fixable problem,” Caughron said. “It may not be the time for it to be fixed, human beings are complicated it may not be resolved right away. So, being patient, being there, realizing it’s a journey and just taking it one step at a time.”

Mulcahy echoes these sentiments on how to support a friend struggling with mental illness or PTSD from sexual harassment. 

“It is powerful for students to share their experiences with counseling and mental health with each other,” Mulcahy said. “Honest and open discussion about mental illness helps to remove the stigma and models to students that if they can seek help through counseling and experience healing, others can as well.”

In the midst of sharing one’s experiences, Mulcahy emphasizes the power of listening to each other.

“You do not need to manage mental illness on your own,” Mulcahy said. “There are many people in our community here to support you including peers, faculty, staff, religious community and professional counselors. Seek out resources for help. We care about you.”

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