Wellness at SHU; An Audrey Niblo Award Article

By: Kathryn Andes

Staff Reporter

According to the American Psychological Association, 61% of college students who are seeking counseling report having anxiety, 49% report having depression, and 45% report feeling stressed.

Students at Sacred Heart University who seek counseling also report feeling this way. Students identified a variety of stressors they felt at Sacred Heart. One sophomore said the biggest one was the pressure to be perfect, while another said she struggled with homesickness.

“From September 2017-May 2018, we saw 673 individual clients with a total of 3,478 appointments. The number of crisis calls increased from 11 to 44 over the course of the year,” said Karen Flanagan, the Wellness Center’s Coordinator of Peer Education.

The Maureen Hamilton Wellness Center offers counseling, health services, alcohol and drug services, and S.W.E.E.T. peer educators. S.W.E.E.T. stands for student wellness education and empowerment team.

“I advocate for better lifestyle habits and am someone on campus that you can always rely on; may it be to talk, or ask some questions about healthy lifestyle practices, I am truly here to support my fellow students in any way I can,” said freshman Jenifer Rodrigues, a S.W.E.E.T. Peer Educator.

In addition to being educators, S.W.E.E.T. holds events for students during the semester to relax and destress from academics.

“The peer education program (S.W.E.E.T.) provides a variety of programming for students including therapy dogs twice a month. There is a colloquia-two coming up next week about opiate awareness. S.W.E.E.T. also provides programming in residence halls about alcohol, stress, sleep, relationships and various other topics,” said Mary Jo Mason, the Director of Student Wellness Services.

For some students, other positive choices can help with stress whether or not they also seek counseling.

“The best advice for dealing with stress is to find a hobby, like exercise or watching a tv show, speaking with a friend or family member, or participating in a fun event that can help release stress hormones and improve overall happiness,” said Rodrigues.

One sophomore, who asked not to be named for privacy, said the counseling center  was very effective and gave great advice when it came to time management and self care.

“When we compare the improvement of students coming to our Counseling Center to those going to centers nationwide, our students improve at a significantly higher rate than at other schools, especially in the area of depression and anxiety,” said Flanagan.

However, two sophomore students, who also requested anonymity, said they wanted to see the same counselor more often, not a different professional for every session, as to avoid the need for an introductory meeting at each visit.

According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, “between the fall of 2009 and spring of 2015, the number of students who visited campus counseling centers increased by more than 30 percent, while college enrollment climbed just 5 percent.”

Located next to the freshman dorm, Angelo Roncalli Hall, The Wellness Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Appointments can be scheduled online through the counseling center website, or by contacting the Wellness Center at 203-371-7955.

For certain students who are unavailable or uncomfortable meeting with a counselor in person, there is a virtual center for women available on the Wellness Center website that provides aid and support for those struggling with sexual assault, education and empowerment, and sexual and gender based violence.

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