by Victoria Chiaramonte

This article is first in a series on mental wellness.

College students across the country are dealing with mental health problems at an alarming rate. We are seeing more and more students riddled with the stress that comes from daily life that cause problems to their mental wellbeing. Here at Cape Cod Community College (4Cs), it is no exception. In fact, here on the Cape it is even worse.

“Community college students have more mental health issues than four-year college students and that is a fact,” said Dr. Maura Weir, coordinator for recovery and wellness at 4Cs. “Our college has more mental health issues than other community colleges in comparison based on the opioid epidemic and depression on the Cape.”

Mental health across campus and across the nation is on the decline. Researchers and faculty of 4Cs are looking into why this is happening and what we can do to solve the ongoing crisis.

More and more students are feeling overwhelmed by their own minds and the environment around them.

“We have 51 tasks on the list that we are trying to accomplish in three years and they’re all related to mental health,” said Weir.

Weir and others are actively working to make 4Cs a better environment for mental health by creating more resources and outreaches to make a change on campus.

There are already many sources of help on campus that are now being advertised more in order to raise awareness and supply the help that any student may need.

The Wellness Center is a great resource for those who feel stressed by their current situation and need someone to talk to about how they are feeling. It is a safe place for students who need to rest or reset their mind and find ways to manage their mental health issues. Also, it serves a place to just to hang out and talk to other students who may be dealing with the same things.

The CALM team is a program designed for professors and staff on campus to file a report about a student that they feel concerned about so that an outreach can take place. When the CALM team gets these reports, they meet and discuss the best way to reach out to these particular students and give them the best help they are able to give.

“The Crisis and Life Management Team (CALM) serves as the campus behavioral intervention team (BIT). The primary function of the team is to identify and assess reports of threatening or concerning student behavior. The team collects and assesses the information in a systematic manner, then determines the most appropriate action plan,” states the CALM team.

Statistics show that the academic year of 2018-2019 had 251 CALM reports. In the fall 2019 semester alone, there were 132 cases reported to the team. To compare, in the fall 2018 semester there were 110 reports and in the fall 2017 semester, there were 80 reports. This year-to-year increase is of course very troubling.

“I don’t know if there is a spike in mental illness necessarily,” said 4Cs Dean of Enrollment Management and Advising services Christine McCarey. “We have increased our capacity to help students who are facing mental health challenges, substance abuse and other life challenges. Food and housing are also big issues. Now that we have two staff members in the wellness office and our crisis and life management team has expanded, I believe we have done a good job of telling the students that we are here for them. It’s a two-way street, where the team provides the outreach and the students come to us.”

On a national level, the statistics match the same trend as on our campus, with anxiety, depression and relationship problems as the top three concerns, in that order. However, the wide variety of reports range greatly.

“It really changes on a day to day basis, with the student that walks through that door,” says McCarey.

Because these statistics are continuously increasing, and more and more students are experiencing a tough time with their psychological state, campaigns and outreaches are being created for those who feel alone in their struggles at 4Cs. The first of these programs is called the ‘Love Yourself’ campaign.

“Within the ‘Love Yourself’ campaign, we will host information tables in the café for National Eating Disorders Week, Self-Injury Awareness Day and White Ribbon Day, as well as relaxing and self-relaxation activities,” said Weir. “[We] will give out free stress balls and other tools you can use for self-care and esteem building.”

The goal of this campaign is to effectively reach out to struggling students and give them hope in the times when they feel that there is none. This is a non-profit organization of education and the arts that promotes loving all aspects of yourself. It strives to give students the self-esteem they need to keep going with their education and in life.

Mental health is certainly on the decline for students, especially right here at Cape Cod Community College. However, with people like Weir fighting to make the campus feel like a safer space, those students who struggling can still find hope.

Watch out for messages around campus for updates from the Love Yourself Project.