Mental health resources at Mason

On-campus resources for spring and finals stress

By Isabella LaMagdeleine, Staff Writer

With the academic year winding down, students can feel anxious with numerous end-of-year finals and papers looming ahead. In order to combat the end-of-year stress, Mason provides a variety of resources to help students handle mental health issues.

Stress and intense pressure can be caused by many different factors. For a college student, these difficult circumstances can be related to financial issues, lifestyle changes, academic pressures and demands, social pressures and lack of food or sleep.

Dr. Robyn Mehlenbeck, director of the Mason Center for Psychological Services and associate professor in the psychology department, stated, “[Mental illness] is one more thing that someone is trying to handle in the college setting.  Someone with a mental illness may also worry about the stigma of the illness, which may lead to not taking care of themselves properly.”

Stress is directly linked to higher rates of conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and plays a role in worsening depression and anxiety as well as drug and alcohol abuse, according to the Mayo Clinic.

One campus mental health resource is the Student Support and Advocacy Center. At the center, staff members support students and guide them as they consider steps to take regarding issues such as interpersonal violence, substance abuse and overall health and wellbeing.

“I think one of the main contributors to stress and anxiety is academics,” said Assistant Director John Cicchetti of SSAC. “A lot of times for students, stressors are coupled. So it’s academics, plus this and that.”
For support from clinically trained staff, students can head to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), where staff offer mental health care and education to students in need, as well as the surrounding community.

“We are one of only two centers in northern Virginia with sliding scale fees, and our highest fees are only one-half to one-third of comparable services in the community,” said Mehlenbeck, describing the support provided by the Center for Psychological Services. They also work with several community partners and agencies, including Inova Behavioral Health, Healthy Lives Fairfax, and the Pediatric Specialists of Virginia.

Another group that students can turn to in a mental health crisis is the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Mason also now offers the Mental Health First Aid course, a one-credit class taught by Kathleen Clare. The course teaches students how to help people facing a mental health crisis.

“I would encourage students to consider and take advantage of their support systems, whether that’s the formalized resources here at Mason, CAPS and SSAC,” said Chicchetti. He added that students can go to personal systems as well, like friends, family members, mentors and others that can point them in the right direction in times of crisis.

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