VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — Even with all of the exciting new beginnings college has to offer, depression and stress can plague students. In fact, according to the American College Health Association, 39-percent of students say they “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” at least once in the 20-16 to 17 school year. About 31% of college students say they seriously considered suicide. That’s why the University of South Dakota is trying to help students put their mental health first.
Friday marked move-in day at USD. Former high schoolers are moving into their first phase of adulthood. Maddie Schwebach says there’s a lot to unpack.
“It was crazy. I had stuff all over my futon and desk,” Maddie said.
Suitcases, boxes, and bins aren’t the only types of stuff that can pile up for new college students.
“I’m just worried about homework, that I’m going to miss a class, or I’m not going to know where I’m going. On the first day and just worrying about my grades has been an issue,” Maddie said.
USD is addressing mental wellness at new student orientation, and trying to help students get ahead of any potential problems or stressors that could lead to tragic outcomes.
“We really try to make students comfortable in voicing their concerns and letting them know if they have any needs they can come to us,” Daniel Hajovsky, assistant professor of the school of psychology, said.
Hajovsky, a licensed psychologist, says plenty of sleep, exercise, and knowing campus resources can help mental wellness. He also suggests putting yourself out there and making friends, because even though there are thousands on-campus, it’s easy to feel alone in a new place.
“Sometimes when they get here, they think they might be the only person struggling and actually everyone struggles a bit,” Kimberly Grieve, USD vice president and dean of students, said.
There’s also the USD Safe App, that lets students contact the university police department if they ever feel unsafe. That’s not all.
“This year we have a new initiative where we’ve trained 100 peer educators to recognize the problems students might be having and engage them a conversation with them,” Grieve said.
About to begin her freshman year, Maddie wants to keep on top of her mental health. She hopes other students don’t just pack away their problems, because it’s ok to get help.
“When people feel sad or feel overwhelmed and so stressed, they find it hard to talk to people about it and then it just piles up in their heart and in their mind and just takes over,” Maddie said.