Your First Year: Paying Attention to Your Mental Health

An interview with the Champlain College Counseling Center.

The first semester of your first year of college is a hectic and exciting time. You’re getting into your major classes, meeting new people, and exploring Burlington. During this transition period, it’s important to not only try new things and stay on top of your work, but to also make sure you make time for yourself, and your well-being. 

Follow our series, Your First Year: Maintaining Your Well-being, for some tips, advice, and campus resources that may be helpful to you during your first few months at Champlain. This week, we’re talking about paying attention to your mental health. Look back at our first post in the series for more well-being tips and resources: Maintaining Your Physical Health.

When you start college, it’s important to not only try new things and stay on top of your work, but to also make sure you make time for yourself, and your well-being. 

We’re more aware of mental health and its importance than ever. As a young person, paying attention to what influences your mental health in positive and negative ways can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle—especially during a big transition like moving from high school to college. 

At Champlain, the Counseling Center is our mental and emotional health expert. In this interview, we speak to Counseling Center professionals Luke Lewis, Maragaret Riley, and Skip Harris about mental health, and strategies you can employ in your day-to-day life to be aware of your well-being. 

What is the Champlain College Counseling Center?

The Counseling Center is Champlain’s center for student counseling services and psychotherapy. Services include individual and group counseling, psychiatric medication management referrals, crisis services, and wellness programming. All traditional undergraduate Champlain students who are currently enrolled are eligible for counseling services.

What is mental health? 

The Counseling team refers to Mentalhealth.org for their definition, which defines mental health as: “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being [that] affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.”

Why is it important to focus on my mental health as a student? 

“College is a time of enormous change, and these changes may impact our mental health,” says the Counseling team. “Bringing awareness to our mental health may be beneficial for academic, social, and workplace success, as well as our emotional and physical wellbeing.” 

You are the center of your life, so making sure that center is doing well should be a daily priority. 

Giving yourself the time and space to be attentive to yourself and your needs can benefit you not only in the moment, but in the long run. Wellness practices and knowing yourself set you up for healthy interactions and moments in all aspects of your life. You are the center of your life, so making sure that center is doing well should be a daily priority. 

What are some common stressors/triggers that could impact my mental health as a first year? 

On a day-to-day basis, there are many micro and macro events that can evoke potentially negative moments in our lives. When transitioning to college, the Counseling team says, “common stressors include loneliness, homesickness, adjusting to living with a roommate, difficulties navigating the dining hall, and increased academic demands.”

The Counseling team adds that while adjusting to new aspects of your life may sometimes prove challenging at first, students should know that “it is normal to have ups and downs during the first year of college. Knowing about this might help to make the transition easier.” 

You can find support at every corner of the campus.

Any change in routine or lifestyle comes with a few bumps. But knowing potential tricky situations ahead of time can help make them less challenging, and knowing everyone has these moments can make you feel less alone. 

What are some techniques I can employ in my daily life to help me better my mental health when I’m having difficulties? 

Mental health is different for everyone, and the strategies you need to be mindful are different as well. Because of these nuances, it’s important to not just look up blanket tips and tricks about mental health, but use these foundations as a jumping off point to create specific practices that work for you. 

Some starting points the Counseling team recommend include: 

  • Practice breathing exercises.
  • Get your body moving (such as taking a walk, doing yoga, or other small exercises that don’t necessarily need to be a strict exercise routine).
  • Be intentional about food choices.
  • Set up a regular sleep schedule.
  • Open up to family and friends about how you are doing.
  • Join an on-campus club as a way to meet like-minded people.
  • Connect with your Resident Assistant (RA). They are a wealth of information!
  • Volunteer at an event on campus. It is a great way to meet people and maintain a positive frame of mind.
  • Prioritize healthy relationships.
  • Improve basic time management skills (visit the SMART Space on campus for tips!).
  • Visit the Champlain College Counseling Center.
Giving yourself the time and space to be attentive to yourself and your needs can benefit you not only in the moment, but also in the long run.

May I go to the Counseling Center as a first-year?  

“Yes!” says the Counseling team. “All enrolled traditional undergraduate Champlain students are eligible for counseling services, every semester.” 

Students have access to eight free individual psychotherapy sessions per semester, and additional emergency appointments, consultation appointments, and group therapy appointments. 

“After reaching the session limit, students will be offered appropriate referrals for care in the community,” says the Counseling team. “The Counseling Center reserves the right to offer additional appointments to students who have significant financial need and cannot afford off-campus counseling.” Students can also receive additional counseling in cases of traumatic events, such as the loss of a family member or friend. 

In a crisis/potentially dangerous situation, the Counseling team says, “If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and need to speak to someone immediately, please contact the on-call counselor at 802.865.5745 or Campus Public Safety at 802.865.6465.”

What are some other programs/centers on campus that can help me navigate these first-year hurdles? 

The Counseling team explains that there are many resources on campus that can help you when you need it. At Champlain, we have the: 

Each of these organizations can provide you with services unique to their cause. You can find support at every corner of the campus, including in your own dorm starting with your Residential Advisor (RA). Some professors even build wellness exercises into the beginning of their class periods, such as performing yoga or music therapy. Plus, each year Champlain hosts our Wellness Week full of special programming to help you decompress and get in touch with yourself. This year, Wellness Week will be held from October 7th to October 10th. 

Our campus even has its own wellness-focused magazine, The Well. Run by and for students, The Well has articles, photo essays, and recipes that focus on topics like mental health, stress reduction, physical health, social health, and general positivity. Check out the magazine online, and read about what your fellow students do to bolster their mental health. 

Does Champlain have any wellness dorms? 

The Counseling team notes that at Champlain, we have, “308 Maple, which is home to our campus’ substance free program. All residents (including those over the legal drinking age) of this building sign an agreement to live a lifestyle free from the effects of alcohol or drugs.” Students also have the option to speak to their RA regardless of what dorm they live in and express an interest in having more wellness-targeted community events.

Can I have an emotional support animal (ESA) on campus?

ESA’s and service animals are both very welcome on the Champlain College campus.

An ESA is a companion/assistance animal that brings emotional comfort and support to its handler/owner. People with anxiety, panic attacks, major depressive disorder, and other mental health concerns can benefit from having an ESA. Unlike a service animal (an animal that has been specially trained to perform a task(s) for a person with a disability), an ESA does not have to be formally trained for a specific task. 

Learn more about animals on our campus on our website

The Counseling Center is located at Skiff Hall, and is open Monday–Friday, 8:30 AM–5:00 PM during the academic year and during the summer. 

Where is the Counseling Center? How can I book an appointment? 

The Counseling Center is located at Skiff Hall—the yellow brick building on the corner of Main Street and South Willard Street on our main campus. You can book an appointment by dropping by to talk to the staff, or visiting the Counseling Center website

If you have any questions about counseling services at Champlain, or other wellness resources, reach out to counselingcenter@champlain.edu

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