Contributed by Alexandria Saurman

Katie Jenson

Equinox Staff

It’s that time of year again, when Keene State College students are preparing for midterms, and with the blistering cold weather, it seems that spring break cannot come soon enough. Dark mornings and even darker nights can add to the melancholy feeling of winter, but it’s too early in the semester for students to lose their motivation and let their grades slip. Right now, the most important thing for students to keep in mind is their mental health.

According to Strategic Psychology, reduced sunlight can affect the body’s circadian rhythms and lead to feelings of depression. The report states that “Reduction in exposure to sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin levels, evoking symptoms of depression. Also, the disruption of Melatonin (a type of hormone) levels can affect sleeping patterns and mood.” This would explain the sluggish feeling people get during the winter, making it harder to get out bed and go on with their daily routine.

It is normal to feel stressed during this time in the semester, but if your depressive symptoms become more extreme and get in the way of daily activities, then it’s time to seek professional help. The Colorado Center for Assessment and Counseling published an article warning of the three top mental health challenges students face today: Anxiety, depression, and addiction.

The article states, “Almost 40 million people over the age of 18 are affected with anxiety disorder, but only one third of those people seek help.” If you are unsure whether you have anxiety disorder or are simply stressed, ask yourself the following questions: Do you experience anxious or worrisome thoughts on a daily basis? Are you plagued by fears others perceive as unfounded or irrational? Do you avoid everyday social activities because they cause you anxiety? Do you experience sudden heart-pounding panic attacks? Is your anxiety interfering with your school work, social life and family? If so, then contact your doctor or a counselor at the school as soon as possible.

The Colorado Center for Assessment and Counseling also raises concern about depression, stating, “Depression is the number one reason students drop out of college.” Presumably, most students are told that college is meant to be the best four years of their life. However, the pressure to make new friends, join new clubs, complete coursework, get good grades, live independently and think about life after graduation can cause students to feel lost and overwhelmed. Yet, it’s comforting to know that everyone is climbing the same mountain and most students feel the exact same way. On the other hand, if these feeling do not subside after a few days or weeks, it’s within your best interest to talk to a school counselor. Common symptoms of depression include lack of proper hygiene, lack of sleep, feelings of apathy towards most things, isolation, and suicidal thoughts.

Both anxiety and depression can drive people into drinking heavily or abusing drugs, which can lead to even more mental health problems, such as addiction. It may be hard to determine whether someone has an addiction because many students partake in drinking and experimenting with drugs. The Alcohol Rehab Guide Organization revealed that “Roughly 80 percent of college students consume alcohol to some degree and 50 percent of those students engage in binge drinking.” If you are worried that you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the Colorado Center advises that you ask the following questions: Do you drink to relieve stress or suppress issues? Has your drinking or drug use interfered with your relationships with others? Have you withdrawn from activities or school work? Does your life now basically revolve around drug or alcohol use? Have you developed a change in personality? If so, seek help from a doctor or counselor before the symptoms worsen.

Keene State College cares about the well-being of their students and there are many resources on campus where they can go to seek help. The counseling staff in the Eliot Center consists of highly trained professionals that are committed to supporting every student’s emotional needs. You can’t take on the world without taking care of yourself

Katie Jensen can be contacted

at kjensen@kscequinox.com