According to Mental Health America (MHA), a nonprofit organization that assists in highlighting all aspects of mental illnesses, the state of Missouri lies in the upper half of prevalence of mental health in the United States.

While the 2018 fall semester has given Missouri Western a historic increase in freshmen enrollment, it has also seen a surge in the number of students visiting the counseling center on campus according to Diversity and Women’s Issues Counselor Vincenza Marash.

“This semester has been very hectic. I would say this has been our busiest semester ever, and a good amount of the students that visit are first year students, but not all of them,” Marash said.

The fall semester has always been the busiest time of the year says Counseling Center Director Dave Brown. So, while the number of students looking for assistance is higher than average, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise to the counseling staff.

“For first year students, they will more than likely always struggle because the first semester is always the hardest to adjust to,” Brown said. “The pace is different from high school. The content, expectations and lifestyle are all different. Coupled with that fact that for most students this is the first time that they will not be dependent on whoever raised them.”

The college lifestyle can bring a slew of challenges that are different for each individual that can cause mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, trauma, eating disorders and etcetera. However, Vincenza Marash, along with fellow first year counselor Katie Jeffers, both agree that while talking to someone is a good temporary solution, alternative exercises should also be used.

“The body is a portal to the brain, so if you want a healthy brain, then take care of the body. It is not the end-all be-all solution,” Marash said.  “Moderate exercises like speed walking, dancing and swimming can get people back to their happy place, which is known as their window of tolerance.”

“A useful tool that I like to use is focusing on being in the moment, essentially giving your mind a break from overthinking,” Jeffers said.

For students that may have been unaware of the counseling that is offered on campus, it is absolutely free, and students are to either set up an appointment by calling (816) 271-4327 or visit the center in Eder 203 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.