The state of mental health care is in dire need of improvement so that it can cater to what is now emerging as one of the leading problems among students.
College life is perhaps the most unique part of a person’s life. It is a world away from the idiosyncrasies of the school. It is the beginning of a new life; a life which brings joy, ambition, and freedom. A life which also brings in stress, and anxiety. The stress of living away from home for the first time, the stress of becoming productive, the stress of getting into new relationships, and the stress of internals. As we find ourselves in this whirlpool of emotions, it gets very easy to lose track of ourselves.
“When we enter college life, it is drastically different from school, you leave your protected bubble and enter the real world. You do things you have never done before. And all that takes a toll on you, especially adjusting to a new life when you barely know anyone around you. A counsellor is a really good buffer zone to help you adjust to the new life and even deal with the great academic pressure,” said Nighat, a student of Psychology from Aryabhatta College.
This is where a college counsellor comes in. A counsellor is a professional designated by the institution to help students deal with their problems — be it mental, psychological, academic, social, or economic — in a productive and effective manner. While some colleges like Hindu College, Miranda House, and Daulat Ram provide a counsellor, there are many colleges without the provision for one. Even when colleges do provide a counsellor, they are often inaccessible to the students. On speaking to a number of students, we found that most were not aware of the presence of a counsellor on campus.
“It is very important to normalise and remove the stigma around seeking a counsellor. Sometimes, just talking to friends does not work. A counsellor is someone who can guide you better. It is only recently that I have seen changes in the perception regarding mental health. I have been working here since 2014. Earlier, the students used to come with hushed voices and quiet footsteps, to not alert anyone else. It is only now that I’m seeing a change where students come in more freely,” said a counsellor from a University of Delhi (DU) college.
With the increase of awareness, there has been a surge in the mental health events or workshops being conducted during “Mental Health Awareness Week” by the Psychology Departments of various colleges. These workshops are usually in collaboration with mental health organisations, where several University students also volunteer. These organisations have become very popular among young college students as they organise poetry sessions, anxiety management activities, and much more. Apart from the college counsellors, there is also the Delhi University Women’s Association which offers counselling services at nominal charges.
What should be noted is that the onus to work for better mental health should not begin and end in a designated mental health week. It should also not be restricted to departments. There should be a regular availability of a skilled counsellor, authorities should take the onus to ensure interactions between the counsellor and the students, and basic facilities should be provided for the same. Few college societies have worked towards this, by using peer mentoring and understanding the importance of catharsis through sharing.
The counsellors should be more involved within the fabric of the college, since becoming a familiar and approachable face is of utmost importance. For a long while now the importance of mental health has been undermined, and it is time that it gains the momentum it deserves.
Feature Image Credits: Friends’ Corner via Facebook