In recent years, Butler has seen a steady increase in the use of mental health services in different areas on campus.
The number of students going to the Health and Recreation Center for counseling and consultation services has almost doubled from 6 percent to 10 percent of the student body of the past few years according to student life.
Also, the number of students receiving academic assistance through Student Disabilities Services for mental health-related issues has tripled in the last few years.
This phenomenon is not necessarily indicative of an increase of students with mental health issues on Butler’s campus. It does, however, show that more students are becoming aware and seeking help for psychological illnesses or mental health concerns, said Vice President of Student Life Sally Click.
Click has overseen Butler’s Counseling and Consultation Services for the past five years. She also oversees awareness programming and mental health education programs on campus.
“Many times I will be the one to get a phone call from a student, their friend or a teacher or parent who is concerned about behavior or notices a change and is worried by it,” Click said. “A lot of time these people don’t know what to do first and I help point them in the right direction or get the ball rolling to begin assisting the student.”
Click said Counseling and Consultation Services in the HRC has been much busier this year at a much earlier time than in the past.
“It usually takes a few months or so for students to begin reaching out to the counseling center,” Click said.
She attributed this trend to an increased number of students who already have diagnoses of various psychological diseases or disorders, such as ADHD, depression or other mood disorders.
Students with various psychological illnesses can qualify for academic assistance through Student Disabilities Services.
Student Disabilities Services Director Michele Atterson said many students with extreme anxiety benefit from extended test time, secluded testing areas or even excused absences due to side effects of their illnesses. SDS can even help a student qualify for a medical withdraw from school due to a psychological illness.
“The process for assisting students with psychological illnesses is different from the way we assist students with learning disabilities because different documentation is required,” Atterson said. “However, like with learning disabilities, assistance is determined on an individual basis.”
Student groups have also become proactive in combating mental health issues on campus and also in reducing the negative stigma regarding mental illness.
Groups such as Peer Advocates for Wellness (PAWS) and G.E.A.R. host events and put on programs to promote good mental hygiene.
Sophomore Katie Ukton joined PAWS as a freshman and said she was attracted to the idea of addressing mental health, an issue that affects many college age students.
“There’s a lot of anxiety, especially in the college environment,” Ukton said. “Plus the transition away from home can add stress on top of the academic stresses students face daily.”
Ukton said she believes a negative stigma regarding mental illness that makes treatment much more difficult than for a physical illness.
“If someone has a visible ailment, like a broken leg, people are very eager to rush to their side,” Ukton said. “When the problem is internal, like with mental illness, it’s a lot harder to disclose what’s wrong. And even then most people don’t know what to say.”
Ukton said while many students probably don’t suffer with a serious mental illness, it is likely that in their lifetime a close friend or family member might.
“In a perfect world, more people would be more open to discussing these issues and say what they need to,” Ukton said.
Junior Elizabeth Davis became interested in mental health awareness efforts due to her own personal experiences, and as a result she became active in PAWS as well. Davis is currently Co-President of PAWS.
“Half of my immediate family suffer from severe depression and I have many friends who suffer from anxiety, psychological disorders, depression and other mental health issues,” Davis said. “I see no reason for students like myself not to be passionate about mental health.”
Davis said she believes the negative stigma regarding mental health issues is being improved due to activism and awareness organizations.
“These groups get the word out that there is no shame and nothing to hold you back from seeking help,” Davis said. “There is no issue too small and no feeling too insignificant to be ignored.”
Davis and Ukton both urged students to talk to a friend, family member or anyone about feelings that may be indicative of a mental health problem or even just something being off.
“’I am depressed. Something doesn’t feel right. I need help’: those words can be so hard, but it’s the best first step,” Davis said.
“It’s always really important for anyone who is struggling–who may think they’re along to realize that they’re not,” Ukton said. “Other people in your life are definitely affected by issues like this, whether you know it or not.”
When asked if she could relay any message to students who feel they are suffering through a mental illness, Davis said. “You are not alone. You are not alone. I cannot stress this enough. There are fabulous free and confidential services at your disposal at Butler.Why not take advantage of them?”
Click said a common strategy for helping relieve the stresses of student anxiety during “adult transitional issues” is to normalize students’ concerns.
“The thought that ‘I am not the only one’ can be what a student needs to hear to find peace of mind,” Click said.
Click said students should remember the positive benefits of seeking help when considering counseling or other services.
“Many students may think ‘I’m weak because I’m seeking help,’” Click said. “But really, everyone benefits from one person getting help. Counseling isn’t about getting hypnotized or admitting weakness. It’s about taking care of needs.”
Students who are concerned about themselves or a friend can contact the counseling center for counseling or consultations by themselves or in a group.