A spike in mental health issues at Belmont has resulted in 12 psychiatric hospitalizations in the fall of 2009 alone, an increase of more than 500 percent from the semester before.
Peg Leonard-Martin, director of Counseling Services, believes the reason behind the increase is obvious: the added stress college students experience every day.
“One of the things that was a shock to me was the pressure that a lot of Belmont students are under,” Leonard-Martin said. “Mind you, I don’t see the students that just breeze on through. But the ones that come to me who are taking full-course loads, working two part-time jobs, taking voice lessons or doing an internship – they sacrifice their nutrition and sleep to keep going. I see it as a really huge problem.”
But it’s not just a Belmont problem.
Leonard-Martin contacted surrounding universities, and they’ve all seen an increase in mental health issues on their campuses.
“We’re not alone. It is a national phenomenon right now, but we had a very horrific problem in the fall,” Leonard-Martin said.
Counseling Services can treat severe psychological problems, but some cases, like each of the 12 in the fall of 2009, require outside help. A circumstance like this, Leonard-Martin said, occurs when the trained professionals in Belmont’s counseling network determine that using additional resources can help the student.
“We have a number of doctors and psychiatrists that we refer to in the Nashville area,” she said. “Feedback from students has been consistently positive.”
Counseling Services at Belmont is always busy. They’re “filling every hour, every day, every week,” said Leonard-Martin.
Asking for help early in times of struggle is imperative. To the director of Counseling Services, it’s a sign of strength.
“Anyone who ever comes to ask for help always thinks they’re the only ones going through it,” Leonard-Martin said. “But it’s part of being a human being. You’re not alone. You’re never going to be judged here. You’re only helped, and we are sacredly confidential.”
Because of concern about an increase in student crises, Counseling Services has already updated its website with information for family and friends who may be worried certain students who are experiencing a mental health issue.
Additionally, STARS – Students at Risk – each semester asks faculty members to be attentive to noticeable changes in any student’s behavior that might indicate emotional hurdles that they need help with. STARS can bridge those concerns and help to direct them to professionals on campus who can assist them.