Zu Magazine is a publication of Zu Media. Below is an article from Issue 2: Contentment

Staff Writer | Dani Herrera

We are happy, carefree college students. At least, we look like it on the outside.

As college students, it’s easy to feel invincible. We’re in our twenties. We’re educated. However, statistics are now showing that one of the biggest threats to college students is themselves.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, young adults in college are prone to bouts of depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety disorders.

The study shows that 50 percent of college students rated their mental health as either “below average” or “poor.” Thirty percent reported problems with school work due to a mental health issue and 25 percent admitted to having suicidal thoughts or feelings.

The same study also found that 50 percent of students said they never received a formal education on mental health issues prior to college.

Part of the problem could be that college students feel more pressure to compete than they have in the past. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, about 17 million people enrolled in college this year compared to 11 million in 2015.

Some are applying to grad schools and need the best grades possible and, for those entering the job market, a well-rounded résumé that includes the perfect internship is just the beginning. We believe that all these are of the utmost importance, so important in fact that contentment can be pushed aside for “someday.”

With this mindset, some students find themselves in the middle of depression or anxiety. Many are not sure what to do in this uncharted territory.

It’s easy to talk about counseling as an option, but when it actually comes to attending, it’s more difficult. It’s a distant concept and some refuse to ask for the help they need.

Kirsten Capps, an APU senior business management major, spoke about her experience with anxiety and depression as a junior in college.

“It was a struggle to go to counseling and to speak what I was feeling. It’s hard to admit things to yourself so to admit it to another person was really hard,” said Capps. “But I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it unless I talked about it. I left every session feeling more hopeful; I had a new sense of self.”  

A stigma of counseling is that it’s only for people with “real issues” or that it’s for “crazy people.”

A 2014 USA Today study showed that one in 10 students go to college counseling centers for mental health issues. Despite this, college students still find themselves feeling ashamed to go to counseling because of the misconceptions around the idea of therapy.

Tessa Hensley, a Modesto Junior College junior psychology major, shared her experience with therapy.

“The only people who would find out I was in therapy were my closest friends and family. They were all happy for me because they knew it was something I really needed,” said Hensley. “Now I don’t care who knows because if I seemed uncomfortable, that may influence others to not go to therapy and they might need it.”  

Therapy differs depending on what type of therapist you have. It’s important to find the right fit for you and there’s nothing wrong with going to different offices before finding the perfect therapist for you.

Jordan Kline, an APU senior liberal studies major, said, “When I hear that people are stressed out or are having problems, I always recommend going to talk to someone. Sometimes they go, sometimes they don’t; I just try to get the wheel rolling.”

As a Christian university, Azusa Pacific gives students access to the Office of Campus Pastors in addition to the University Counseling Center. Students are able to talk to pastors about issues they’re experiencing and possibly deepen their faith and spirituality in the process.

Students fill out a form with specific questions meant to pair the student with a pastor for appointments.

“I had a good experience there because it’s nice to talk to someone who really knows what they’re talking about… [I] love to hear them spit verses,” Capps said.

Students can schedule appointments for the University Counseling Center by filling out a questionnaire and an availability calendar on their Health Portals through their APU accounts. The center also offers RIO Workshops and Anxiety Toolbox workshops for free.

There are always smaller steps to take if therapy is too daunting an idea, and oftentimes people find contentment through unexpected sources.

Exercising and spending time outside is good for a quick fix of endorphins and vitamin D. Talking to others, whether it be friends or family, is a great way to get everyday support.

Some find comfort in going outside their daily routine, taking a small trip or a spending the day at the beach. Others turn to their passions. The key is to stay occupied and to do things that make you happy.

“I turned to reading. Books, articles, fiction, nonfiction and autobiographies all helped me. So many people write about depression and other issues in various ways, and there’s bound to be something out there that could be related to whatever personal issue you have going on,” Hensley said.

A helpful and little known resource is the option to take a temporary leave of absence from classes. Yes, it’s possible. I’ve done it.

Classes and work will be put on hold for the student as they take a brief break to recenter their lives. Sometimes, a leave of absence for the duration of the semester is needed. The thought of temporarily stopping school can be unimaginable but a break can help students come back stronger and happier than before.

There are many ways to take a step toward the process of mental wellness. There doesn’t need to be a definite, outlined plan. All you need is a series of positive steps.