Mental Health and the College Experience

Are you one of the many students who will enter college having experienced depression, anxiety or other psychological concerns?  You are not alone! Many of your fellow students have participated in therapy or family counseling and/or take psychotropic medication, too.   You can help make your college experience a success by planning ahead.

Here are some issues to consider:

 Change is stressful!

  • Even good changes bring stress, which in turn can contribute to increased psychological dis-tress.   Anticipate the challenges you’ll face starting college and have a plan to cope.  If you are in therapy, your clinician can help you identify your strengths and your vulnerabilities – your coping plan should account for both.
  • Talk with your clinician about warning signs and helpful steps to take if your symptoms recur. These symptoms might include low mood, sleep or appetite changes, and irritability, among others. Your clinician can help you identify your personal warning signs and advise you how to handle them.
  • Learn about resources at UMW and in Fredericksburg and how to access them (remember, freshmen cannot bring cars so plan accordingly)

Manage change wisely!

    • Living in a new place, meeting new people and tackling new classes are a lot of changes all at once. Try to maintain some constants in your life:
      • Good health counts. Eat well, get regular exercise and rest, and make time for leisure, friends and fun.
      • Think through your decisions about alcohol. Alcohol is a mood changer. Drinking may momentarily lift your spirits or reduce your anxiety but it doesn’t work that way for long. In reality, alcohol acts as a depressant in your nervous system. Alcohol may also interact negatively with certain medications (check with your doctor to be sure).
      • Stay in touch with friends and family. Photos and mementos can be a real comfort, especially at first.
      • If you take psychotropic meds, talk with your doctor before deciding to discontin. Many students see college as a whole new chapter in their lives and are reluctant to continue with their medication. But chances are, your first few months of college life will be more, not less, stressful than life at home. It may be wiser to delay until you feel settled in and adjusted to college. Talk with your MD about medication changes and/or refills well BEFORE you arrive at school and understand policies about medication refills. Don’t find yourself calling for a refill the day your prescription runs out.
      • Learn about your treatment options.

The Talley Center for Counseling Services uses a short-term therapy model.
Full-time, degree-seeking students are eligible for counseling services. All our services are free and confidential.

If you anticipate needing longer-term therapy

OR if your clinician recommends this, please consult with us. We can assist you in locating mental health resources in the community. Circumstances vary but longer-term therapy may be appropriate when a student is coping with chronic, severe depression, bipolar illness, an ongoing eating disorder or other severe and long-standing psychological disorder.

If you need a referral to a mental health professional…

Each year we survey the local community to identify psychiatrists and other mental health professionals available to work with our students. We maintain a database detailing providers’ insurance information, their respective approaches to therapy, disability access, types of issues addressed by each, and the like.

  • If you plan to use services in the local community whether for therapy or psychiatric medication management, make sure you have your health insurance information card available. Many insurance plans demand that you use the services from their pre-approved lists of providers in order for the charges to be covered.

Our staff welcomes you to UMW and we look forward to helping you make the most of your college experience. Please call us at 540-654-1053 for more information.