Rubber ducks with an encouraging message were handed out at the Fresh Check Day in the commons on September 29th. (Kelsey Ritchie/TCU)

Before coming to college, many students are prepared by their loved ones and mentors on what to expect from the experience.

They are warned about the first round of tests, the first feeling of homesickness, the lack of sleep, the daunting hours of studying and maybe even the importance of trying to remain healthy through eating right and exercising.

However, according to the Counseling, Testing & Mental Health Center, there is one issue rarely talked about: mental health.

The center reports that 50 percent of college students feel depressed to the point that they have trouble functioning in school and 10 percent of college students have thoughts of suicide.

This means that approximately 4,323 undergraduate students on the TCU campus deal with symptoms of depression, and nearly 865 students cope with suicidal thoughts.

These numbers have caused colleges around the country to place a new emphasis on mental health, and TCU is no exception.

chart 1 copy
Although TCU’s numbers are significantly lower than the national average, there has been an increase in the amount of students seeking counseling over the last three years.

This week, students were able to participate in an event called “Fresh Check Day,” a program that goes around to college campuses for the sole purpose of checking in on students, specifically on their mental health.

“This is the first time we have done this on campus,” said Cathy Elrod, a staff member at the Counseling, Testing & Mental Health Center. “This semester, we are trying to take proactive steps to advocate for conversations about mental health on campus.”

The event consisted of different booths set up in the commons, each representing a different organization or campaign that is associated with mental health on campus. There was also free food, free massages and puppy therapy.

“Honestly, I just came because I heard the music and saw free food,” said Tia Johnson, a sophomore transfer student.

“But now that I’m here and talking to other people here, I realized that I am really stressed, and I don’t do a very good job of dealing with that,” Johnson said.

“College students need to be a lot better about taking time to take care of themselves,” Johnson said. “As students, I think we are too embarrassed to take advantage of the resources we have on campus for dealing with mental health issues.”

This feeling of embarrassment or shame is what Active Minds, a student organization dedicated to opening the conversation about mental health, is trying to combat this semester.

“I think that this semester and over this past year, people have started to realize that mental health isn’t something that needs to be hidden or ignored,” said Abbie Butler, Active Minds president.

“I just want students to realize that this is something that so many people deal with and we should provide a support system for them,” Butler said.

At Fresh Check Day, Active Minds had students write down notes, struggles or words of encouragement on pieces of paper shaped like shoe prints. These papers were glued to a sign that said “Stomp Out the Stigma,” advocating for a more accepting sentiment about mental health.

According to counselors, this new mindset has started to make its way onto campus this semester. Elrod said that she has seen more patients than ever before this year, filling her six allotted time slots for counseling sessions nearly every day.

Elrod said she sees this as a sign that fewer people feel the need to hide their issues and are more willing to actively seek help.

“I think people are very stressed,” Elrod said. “Anxiety is our number one diagnosis. But the good news is, people are coming in. They’re getting help, whether they come in voluntarily or through a referral.”

At counseling sessions, students learn about different tools of relaxation, from online videos to a relaxation and meditation group on campus. Counseling sessions are free to students and can either be scheduled or, given availability, walk-in.

There are several different locations on campus that offer resources for students struggling with mental health. Check them out here:

The Counseling, Testing & Mental Health Center also recently implemented a 24/7 counseling line open to anyone on or off campus. This service gives students an outlet and a safe haven no matter the time of day.

Different outreach programs, offered both through the counseling center and through other centers on campus, also offer students a way to come together to discuss these issues.

“R U OK?” is a suicide prevention campaign that educates students on how to reach out to a friend they are concerned about. The campaign addresses symptoms and signs of depression and also teaches students how to have conversations about suicide prevention.

The Body Project, a new initiative on campus, hosts seminars and support groups for students struggling with eating disorders. It is a peer-to-peer program that takes place over two two-hour workshops.

“We are just trying to get people together to talk about getting away from this idea of the ‘thin ideal,’” Ryan Keller, assistant director of fitness and wellness, said.

“We are trying to promote the idea of positive body image while also being an outlet for students to discuss their struggles with eating disorders,” Keller said.

“When students feel better, they do better – academically, socially and emotionally,” Johnson said.

Website | + posts

Kelsey Ritchie is a junior Political Science and Journalism double major from Tulsa, OK. She is currently serving as the Student Organizations line editor.