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Counseling Center assists students

Jennifer Rowling | Friday, March 19, 2004

Notre Dame, a small, private, highly competitive University, is comprised of students apt to suffer from disorders related to stress and a demanding schedule, Pre-Doctoral Counseling Psychology intern Helen Bowden said. Consequently, The University Counseling Cen-ter is working efficiently to assist students with the stress-related mental illnesses surfacing on campus.Bowden said Notre Dame students presented a wider range of problems related to stress and competition than students she saw at a large liberal University where she worked previously.Bowden recognizes the “perfectionist” mentality of the Notre Dame student and understands their vulnerability as she reflected on the makeup of the student body – 80 percent of students were captains of athletic teams, they have an average SAT score of 1380 and 25 percent of students are legacies. If the pressures aren’t coming from parents or peers, students themselves are feeling guilty when they are not productive every minute, she said.”People are like cars, if you don’t have oil changes, [they are] going to break down,” she said. Stress and time management are the main factors associated with the increase of stress-related disorders, according to Bowden. The University Counseling Center can assist students with better managing stress before further problems arise by teaching relaxation training, box breathing, meditation and adequate scheduling. Other disorders commonly seen as a result of the highly competitive atmosphere students face include eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, alcohol and substance abuse and depression. The results from students completing the intake test at the University Counseling Center indicated that 15 percent scored above the threshold for eating disorders and 20 percent for alcohol and substance abuse. Fortunately, The University Counseling Center provides assistance for all of these disorders. Students begin by meeting individually with a counselor or psychologist for a confidential session. Then a specifically-focused group is recommended: Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Not the Perfect Family, Eating Disorder, Interpersonal Effectiveness or Alcohol Abuse. These group-counseling sessions aid individuals in realizing that they are not alone; members assist and learn from one another.”Feel Better Fast” focuses on students suffering from depression. Sleeping and eating are the two issues this program stresses because they can be directly associated with decreased serotonin levels and depression. In order to produce adequate serotonin levels, food should be eaten every 4 hours and adequate sleep is necessary. Statistics indicate that most students eat only two meals a day, and Bowden said that she believes students often stay up too late.Bowden says, “I haven’t heard as many students staying up late as [I have] here. Most students stay up until 2 a.m. every evening.” Another unique program the Counseling Center offers is “Performance Enhancement” which focuses on stages of enhancing performance including attention focus, goal setting, peak performance and arousal management.The Counseling Center sees students with a variety of disorders throughout the year; however, during the winter, depression is at its high point. Times of increased student stress levels are seen when students are going home for break and towards the end of a semester, Bowden said.Due to the nature of the Notre Dame student, there is high probability for concern. Bowden said that if students are or know others who are suffering from any kind of disorder, they should seek help at the Counseling Center. She noted that a few moments of time may avert a more serious issue later.