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ECC support group helps students deal with anxiety.

Byline: Madhu Krishnamurthy

Depression and anxiety over adjusting to college life and financial stresses can lead students to drop out, wellness experts at Elgin Community College say.

To help students get past those struggles, the school has started an anxiety support group with free individual and group sessions, seminars, classroom presentations, light therapy, crisis intervention and referral options.

Anxiety is the primary reason students use the Wellness Services, and data shows an increase in students seeking help each semester over the past year. If left unaddressed, anxiety issues can lead to problems with student retention, officials said.

Since the support group started in spring 2017, 90 percent of students who participated went on to register for the summer and fall semesters, said Gregory Robinson, dean of student services and development.

"We know through research that college students will typically struggle with anxiety and depression throughout their college career ... especially those transitioning from high school. We need to make sure we are providing them with the needed services," Robinson said.

Groups are limited to 10 to 12 students and participants must commit to seven weeks of therapy. Counselors conduct before and after assessments to determine students' anxiety levels and those requiring individualized support can meet with counselors outside the group. Students get as many as four sessions of one-on-one counseling with campus wellness professionals.

"We also provide crisis intervention, if a student is identified as being suicidal or homicidal," said Robinson, adding less than 1 percent of students exhibit such signs.

Between 2009 and 2015, the number of college students visiting counseling centers increased by 30 percent on average while enrollment grew by less than 6 percent, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health's 2015 report.

Nearly 40 percent of 63,000 college students at 92 schools nationwide surveyed in spring 2017 said they felt so depressed in the past year that it was difficult to function, and 61 percent said they "felt overwhelming anxiety," according to an American College Health Association survey.

Aside from adjusting to the college environment, students can struggle with financial stability, having to support the family, anxiety over getting scholarships or being undecided about their field of study, lack of support/guidance at home, domestic violence, and emotional or physical abuse.

ECC offers psychosocial education focusing on workshops about stress management techniques, developing coping skills, and bystander intervention training for students witnessing bullying or sexual assault and how to interrupt inappropriate behavior.

"We provide therapeutic mental health support ... we do a lot of deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation to release anxiety we hold on to," said Vincent Cascio, ECC wellness professional. "We use actual treatment modalities, behavioral therapy. We've done a depression support group in the fall."

ECC also partners with community agencies for students needing long-term therapy, medication management and psychiatric services.

"If they can't get the services they need here, we have opportunities for them to get it elsewhere," Cascio said.

For 24-hour student assistance call (847) 742-4033 and additional resources visit
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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Jul 22, 2018
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