You arrive, most times, in a new city, or state or country. You have a new schedule, a new residence and a new hall full of strangers you now must live with for a year. It can feel very overwhelming—especially in New York City.
When you move to New York City, you expect a rapid transformation into a successful, on-the-go student who has their life put together. You feel as though you are meant to do cool new things every weekend to make your friends at home jealous. You must take in every sight and opportunity that the city offers.
Here’s the catch: You still need to get good grades, make new friends, find a job, join extracurriculars and go out every weekend. When all these aspects of an idealistic New York college student lifestyle do not fall into place right away, you could feel hopeless and inferior. This feeling is normal, but if it persists, seek help.
New York University drills the importance of mental health into the minds of their incoming freshmen class at the Presidential Welcome.
Here, New York University’s President Andy Hamilton talks to the new students and a student-led group writes and performs an NYU-themed musical full of tips on how to survive the next four years there. They make light of NYU stereotypes and popular myths. Most of the show focuses on real issues such as abuse, alcohol and drug misuse, body image and depression.
The central message of the show is the reiteration of NYU’s Wellness Exchange hotline. The number (212) 443-9999 remains in NYU students’ minds long after the “Reality Show” ends. This number proves the most accessible way to get help for issues large and small. This number provides access to counselors 24/7. They can provide access to further resources depending on the needs of the students. In this way, NYU appears to offer ample resources open to students if they need someone to talk to or feel lost.
Recently, I visited the Student Health Center to get medically cleared for work. They asked me routine questions about my diet, exercise and drinking and drug involvement. But, one question surprised me.
My nurse asked, “Are you feeling hopeless or depressed?” The question surprised me and I swiftly answered no after registered what she said.
Truthfully, if I been feeling hopeless like I had for most of my first semester there, I don’t know if I would’ve said yes. The question was posed in a very formulaic environment and not somewhere where I felt my pouring out of emotions would have been received.
I find this inquiry interesting in that it may reach students who feel hesitant to reach out, but also in its ineffectiveness as a serious question. I visited the health center once freshmen year to get my flu shot, so I would not have been exposed to this question in the time when I needed it most.
Thus, the resources I could have used to help me feel better were known to be at the time, but perhaps not made tangible to me as they were when asked face to face by someone willing to help.
When I felt hopeless in my college experience, I considered reaching out, mainly to the counseling services that I knew NYU provided. In reality, I did not want to actualize my feelings because I could not rationalize my own need for a therapist.
I didn’t think my own problems were worthy of professional help.
This highlights a toxic insecurity existing in our society today. Many people who feel down to the point of depression don’t reach out because they don’t want to come to terms with the severity of their problems. Because of this, despite how many resources universities offer students, they may never reach a community of students who continue to struggle.
Speaking to students who have taken advantage of NYU counseling students, I know the downsides to seek help in this way.
First, NYU only offers ten counseling sessions for free. After this, they will help you find outside therapists who then cost money, which could be unreasonable for low-income students who are then forced to stop going to therapy after these ten sessions.
Second, the center has limited staff and appears underemployed. After assigned a therapist, a student may have to wait weeks in between sessions, which can be dangerous for students of high need.
Also, students of color find it challenging to find staff there that they can relate to there. High demand for these resources proves that they are being used by students, but they must remain accessible and inviting to all students to prove effective.
Students are also assigned to a psychiatrist, whose appointments are even more scarce. One student recalls being told his problems were not worthy of help, effectively downplaying his feelings. Students, then, are forced to look for outside resources, which may be proven successful, but yet again expensive, physically farther away and less accessible.
One bad experience should not discourage a student from reaching out to their university if they feel any degree of depression or anxiety. But colleges and universities should constantly strive to improve how they approach mental health help.
I am constantly told by students and faculty alike to look out for myself and not work too hard. I don’t think NYU ignores mental health in any way, and I believe their hotline provides an easily accessible resource for all students. Although, students should not shy away from outside resources, including international hotlines such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). More and more online counseling services are emerging such as BetterHelp.com.
Reaching out to friends and family to talk is also vital in these situations. Despite the downfalls in mental health programming that exist on college campuses and beyond, students should never feel that their hopelessness is unwarranted or unworthy of help. There are plenty of resources and plenty of people ready to listen and validate your feelings.