Surviving end-of-the-year pressures

Dr. Darryl Holloman, Georgia State’s Dean of Students said that college could trigger many feelings and emotions for students, especially during finals period.
“This time of the semester can also cause varying levels of anxiety and sometimes can relate to depression,” he said.

Rebecca Johnson, a psychology professor at Georgia State also said students can have a rough time towards the end of the semester.

“The end of the semester is often a stressful time for students. Not only is there a lot to manage studying for multiple finals and to complete end-of-semester papers on top of regular day-to-day responsibilities but there is the added fear that if the final assignment does not go well it may seriously affect their grade,” she said.

Q: Is it the holidays?“Many people experience some increases in anxiety and depression around the holidays. This can be linked to seeing (or not seeing) family, coordinating travel, finances, etc.,” Johnson said.“I don’t think that the holidays specifically bring students into the office, often during holiday seasons, many students are preparing to go home. I do, however, think that throughout the semester students sometimes face challenges that need support,” Holloman said.

A pattern that Professor Aurélie Weinstein has also noticed. Weinstein teaches mostly seniors and said she noticed that some of her students suffer from anxiety disorder, and that students tend to get more anxious towards the end of the semester. She said that students are concerned about graduation and papers, but that it’s normal because that’s not as strong as people that suffer from other stressors.

“Most of them work full-time, and some of them have families. To be able to be a full-time student, work, and have a family all of that can bring a lot of stress in life. They do confess that,” she said.

Johnson described some of the same pressures students face that can lead to stress and depression. Besides schoolwork, university students are often balancing a lot more.

“Students may experience pressure from family to do well in school and internal pressure based on their expectations of themselves. They may also experience peer pressure, which can sometimes be counter to the family pressure to focus on school. Many students also have stress from work and may have additional stress as a family caretaker,” she said.

Psychology Professor Kristy Sorenson said she noticed depression in all classifications of students, from freshmen to seniors.

“I think those thoughts are coming from family pressure or sometimes transitioning into a new environment. Coming from high [school] to college. But the seniors, I see pressure because they are afraid of their future. They are indecisive. Haven’t made good career goal plans,” she said.

Sorenson said  that she can tell when something is going on with a student. Often it is when they are failing, or they start off the semester with a good grade, which then slips to a bad grade.

She said it was easier to notice students with issues at smaller schools she’s taught at rather than at Georgia State because there are so many students.


Getting rid of the stigma and getting help

Lisa Armistead, a psychology professor who specializes in children and adolescents, said it is important that students who have difficulty sleeping, eating, who feel slowed down should go to a mental health professional to figure out if they are dealing with depression and anxiety or just dealing with typical challenges of college students.

Most of the students that Armistead works with are clinical psychology students. If they have a problem, she notices her students will see a therapist because they don’t carry a stigma that some people do.

“They know the value of getting mental health treatment when they are struggling,” she said.

According to Armistead, sometimes depression or anxiety can get in the way of academic functioning.

“That’s the time when you need to take advantage of resources on campus. Mental health treatment can be hard to access but for Georgia State’s students it’s not a bad time to be struggling because there are people here who can help you in the counseling center and psychology clinic,” she said.

Holloman said that the Dean of Students Office has dealt with students dealing with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts throughout the semester. Even though the dean’s office also provides service to students, he recommends that students utilize the counseling center and the recreation center to relieve stress.

“The Dean of Students Office works closely with University Housing, Disability Services, and the Counseling Center faculty as well as various constitutes throughout campus to ensure that we create a supportive environment for students on each of the Georgia State University campuses,” Holloman said.

Johnson states that people with a stronger support system are less likely to experience severe clinical depression or anxiety.

“Strong social supports have also been shown to be a protective factor. Having a supportive home environment, as well as a school environment that is supportive and non-judgmental is crucial,” she said.

Jill Lee-Barber, who is the Senior Director of Psychological and Health Services and a Chief Psychologist mentions that the counseling center offers meditation to students as well as other helpful emotional relievers.

“There is a performance lab where students can use biofeedback equipment and consultation with a provider who is trained in sports psychology to train their brain so that anxiety does not interfere with their performance.  This is especially helpful for athletes, as well as for test anxiety, public speaking anxiety, or any type of performance anxiety.  We also offer mind/body consultation services including nutrition and meditation,” she said.

Lee-Barber also said that students are given free counseling in walk-in appointments as well.

But there are other measures the university takes for students that are struggling and are more hesitant to get help.

Coordinator of Student Advocacy and Outreach Fallon L. Proctor, said the most common issue she sees students having is mental health issues, mainly depression, but that often students hesitate to utilize counseling services because they’re fearful of the process, or counseling is not recognized in their family or culture.

“Making sure that students know that counseling is available to them is the first step by letting them know anonymously like putting it on a flyer or syllabus. I do know that the counseling center goes out to classes, provide services to members who are directly impacted such as classmates and instructors. The counseling center tries to be very proactive and making sure students know about their services,” she said.