The reality of student stress
Concordia students say stress is the issue with the biggest impact on many aspects of their lives, including academic performance.
According to the 2013 National College Health Assessment (NCHA), which surveyed students from 32 Canadian post-secondary institutions last spring, a majority of the university’s respondents cited stress as the factor that most affected their studies. After stress — at 33 per cent — the next most-pressing issues were anxiety (27.4 per cent) and sleep problems (21.3 per cent).
The assessment is the first time Concordia has received a clear statistical portrait of student health. “It confirmed for us that stress is one of the major issues that students are struggling with,” says Melanie Drew, director of Health Services.
The direct correlation between well-being and academic performance also validates Student Services’ ongoing efforts to offer student-specific health services and support programs.
Among these initiatives is the first Let’s Talk: Mental Health and Wellness Week. From Monday, February 10, to Friday, February 14, Student Services is hosting daily workshops on anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks and other related topics at its Counselling and Development and Health Services units. The workshops are all free, although students must reserve a place in advance.
On Wednesday, February 12, the Let’s Talk: Mental Health and Wellness Fair will feature more than 15 interactive kiosks. The kiosks will provide information about a variety of mental health issues — including some that may not be as obvious, like the effect of money management on stress.
The idea behind the Mental Health and Wellness Fair is to give students an opportunity to ask frank questions and get straight answers from professionals. Health Services will be booking appointments for those who want a follow-up; it will also introduce the new edition of its stress management guide.
Jeffrey Levitt, a psychologist and the manager of Mental Health Clinical Services, will also be on hand to provide immediate advice.
Continuing the conversation
Maintaining an open, comfortable dialogue about mental health is important — not only because of the social stigma these issues carry, but also because it can be difficult to distinguish between the everyday stresses we all experience and something potentially more severe.
“We use terms like stress, anxiety and depression,” says Drew. “They get thrown around a lot without people really understanding what they mean and what the differences are between a normal, temporary amount of stress and a long-term amount that affects your overall health.”
Drew is concerned that students may also be unaware of how to address these issues — and the fact that it may take the help of a professional. “Sometimes it’s about things you can’t manage.”
The main sign that a person’s stress may be too much to handle alone is if it starts to affect their daily life, resulting, for instance, in a diminished or increased appetite, difficulty sleeping or an inability to maintain relationships.
lf students — especially new ones, who may still be learning to balance academic and personal obligations — suspect their problem is more serious than regular class-related jitters, they can book an appointment with a psychologist at the Counselling and Development office or visit the crisis walk-in clinic, open daily. Health Services also takes appointments, and nurses at its walk-in clinic can help direct students to the necessary support services.
Think your stress might be more than you can manage? Here’s how to spot the signs of mental illness.
The facts about the Let’s Talk: Mental Health and Wellness Fair
Concordia’s Let’s Talk: Mental Health and Wellness Fair takes place on Wednesday, February 12, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Abe and Harriet Gold Atrium of the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV Building, 1515 Ste-Catherine St. W.) on the Sir George Williams Campus.
To register for the Manage Your Mental Health Workshop Series, visit the MyConcordia portal. In the Student Services menu, click on “Counselling and Development.” Read the terms and conditions, click “Accept” if you agree and then click on “Events and Workshops.” From there, choose the workshop you wish to attend and click “Register.”
On Thursday, February 13, Health Services is hosting a workshop about stress management. Attendance is first-come, first-served. Simply bring valid student identification to Health Services, in room GM-200 of the Guy-Metro (GM) Building (1550 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.) on the Sir George Williams Campus.