A recent ABC News story highlighted the alarming statistic that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college aged students. Universities and colleges across America have been reporting a rising rate in suicidal thoughts, tendencies and completed suicides.
In light of these new statistics, Marywood is taking a proactive role in addressing issues of mental health and suicide among the campus community. Director of the Counseling and Student Development Center Dr. Robert Shaw said he doesn’t see this issue as a one size fits all scenario.
Shaw said he believes the pressures for academic excellence, emotional traumas that students bring with them to college and social pressures can burden many students. In Shaw’s opinion, the biggest contributing factor are social pressures, especially social media pressures.
“People struggle mightily with negative impressions that other people may portray about them, especially with all the myriad of social media out there,” said Shaw.
Shaw said there hasn’t been a day in years where he has been able to walk on campus without being bombarded by students on their phones.
“It’s all consuming and all on-going,” said Shaw. “It used to be said that television and media were hungry mediums, but social media is even worse.”
Shaw said he feels Marywood is right in the middle of the pack in terms of numbers of students facing suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
“No one is immune to suicidal concerns,” said Shaw.
Shaw said there are several different outlets on campus to help students facing such mental health challenges. One of these outlets is the Counseling/Student Development Center’s group of specialized mental health professionals.
The center also offers outreach programs such as depression and anxiety screening days, Promoting Awareness of the College Transition (PACT) program, “It’s on Us” week and Marywood’s Behavioral Intervention Team.
Shaw said he believes offering these programs to students will help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. Mental health center trainee and Clinical Psychology Graduate Student Carlie Leaman said the center is currently taking in anywhere between 10 to 12 new students a week.
Leaman said she feels that Marywood’s resources are superior compared to other colleges because there are many different options for different issues.
“Between body positivity groups, LGBT+ support groups, [Peers On Wellness] and all of the other groups and services we provide, we really do have a wide variety for an issue or concern a student is having,” said Leaman.
Leaman said that as a graduate student working in the Student Development Center, each trainee’s mental health is kept in consideration by all the staff.
“There is some burnout, but everyone here understands when we need some time,” said Leaman. “They are really good about that.”
Leaman also stressed that the counseling center has an open door policy and that anyone is welcome to come to the counseling center for help.
“It takes away the pressure some people might feel and lets them get comfortable with coming to therapy in their own time,” said Leaman.
Both Shaw and Leaman said the success of Marywood’s mental health services is all a result of community support.
“Between all of the community resources available, from [Geisinger Community Medical Center] to the District Attorney of Lackawanna county, when someone is struggling, not only is the Marywood support strong but the community support is astounding,” Shaw said. “When someone here needs help, the night turns into a blaze of color.”
Contact the writer: [email protected]