Help is near

Anxiety, depression, frustration, stress, fear, worthlessness, emotional apathy, family crisis, insecurities, drug abuse, embarrassment, over/under sleep, hopelessness, and the list of negative emotions circulating inside the minds of many college students continues.  College is a time of new experiences, new people, new thoughts and ideas. Without enough strength, guidance, and support, college can be a life changing experience that is too much to handle. For some it is a fresh start, while others feel as if they have been thrown out in the world without an instruction manual or safety net. Severe mental illness is more common amongst college students now than it was a decade ago.  According to the American Psychiatric Association 10 percent of students are diagnosed with depression and 30 percent report feeling overwhelmed most of the time. 85 percent of colleges report an increase in the past five years in students with severe psychological problems. 30 percent reported at least one suicide in the past year.

At Santa Monica College, hundreds of students depend on the Psychological Services for their mental wellbeing. They see it as a safe point where they can go to seek advice in a time of personal crisis. Dr. Sandra Rowe has been working as a psychologist at the SMC Psychological Services for three years, and she assures that the number of students seeking psychological guidance has increased substantially.  "It has not only increased, it has more than doubled," said Dr. Rowe.

This semester is the busiest Dr. Rowe has ever seen. "Generally spring semester is more stressful to students than fall; anxiety levels are higher for a lot of reasons," she said. "For example, people are getting acceptance letters from universities and the school year is coming to an end."

Located in Liberal Arts #110, the Psychological Services are open to all students with walk in hours and appointment scheduling. Dr. Rowe assures that all things being said are confidential, unless an immediate threat to someone's safety is revealed. In that case, the campus police are brought in with helpful and legal ability to involuntarily hospitalize a student in risk of hurting his or herself.

"Every year several students have suicidal crises. They are thinking about it and planning actively," said Dr. Rowe, emphasizing on the importance of being available to students who are in this position. With a ratio of three full-time and two part-time staffs at a college with over 30,000 students, Rowe wishes they could spend more time with each student until referring them to appropriate off-campus treatment.

The numbers of students in need of psychological guidance are escalating, but the condition of students seeking this type of counseling doesn't necessarily reflect the health of the average college student. The findings in a study made by the American Psychological Association in August 2010, suggest that students with severe emotional stress are getting better outreach, education, and support during childhood, which has made them more likely to attend college than in the past.

SMC's Psychological Services regularly organizes informative workshops on topics such as alcohol and drug use, test anxiety and stress management.  They were also involved with the recent Domestic Violence Week, which arranged a variety of events around campus.

Dr. Rowe encourages students in need to take advantage of the services by walking in to LA #110 or calling (310) 434 - 4503 to make an appointment. Walk-in sessions are also offered Monday -Thursday from 10 a.m. – noon, and 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. and 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. on Fridays. The walk-in sessions are based on a first come first serve basis and serves students who can't wait for an appointment but need to see a psychologist right away. Faculty members are also welcomed to consult the Psychological Services in case they need advice on how to approach and encourage a distressed student to seek help.