Counseling numbers continue to increase
Bowdoin's Counseling Service is receiving more visits from students every year.
According to the Director of Counseling Services Bob Vilas, the 2003 fall semester was no exception to the recent trend of increased student visits.
The number of students receiving counseling last term was up eight percent from the fall of 2002. Vilas said that the 230 Bowdoin students who received counseling in the fall represents an increase over not only the fall, but also the 1990s.
In addition, 58 percent of the students who visited showed some signs of depression.
Twenty-five percent of these students were reported by their psychologists as being "clinically depressed," which would impair them from functioning normally in a college environment. The other 33 percent were categorized as having "depressive symptoms."
Vilas added that many of the students visiting the Counseling Center "have had some sort of counseling before they came to Bowdoin."
Vilas attributes the increase of students coming to counseling in the past year to a number of factors. The stigma about going to a counselor for help has decreased in the past decade and awareness about the issue of college students' mental health has increased. He also credits Bowdoin for being a tightly-knit community where support and trust are valued.
Most importantly, however, Vilas said that Bowdoin, like many similar colleges, "is a stressful environment and the level of stress and anxiety has increased for a number of reasons in young adults' lives these days."
As far as eating disorders and substance abuse, Vilas, who has been with the College since 1987 said, "These two issues have always been prevalent on campus, but students with these conditions often fail to seek treatment due to the presence of denial."
Of the 347 students the Center saw last year, 12 percent of the students were dealing with some sort of eating disorder.
The Counseling Service encourages people to come and talk if they feel like they are facing any sort of troubling issue. The counseling that the service provides is designed keeping in mind that the students that seek out this guidance are adults and that the process is very self-determined.
No one will force them to come back and although at times they will recommend that the student has a psychological evaluation, it is ultimately up to the student if he or she wants to go on a medication like an anti-depressant.
Of the students who went to the Center last semester, 38 percent chose to have an evaluation for medication with one of the Service's two consulting psychiatrists.
Although some students at Bowdoin go on a medical leave when coping with depression, eating disorders, or alcoholism, the vast majority of these leaves are voluntary. Occasionally, when the counselor sees that an individual may harm him or herself or are a threat to others, they will recommend a leave, but most of the people who go on leave come back and have found that they function better both academically and socially, according to Vilas.
The Counseling Service has five regularly-staffed counselors, two of whom are also identified as "multicultural consultants."
Of the students who visited the Center last year, 28 percent were students of color and/or international students. These students were spread out pretty evenly between the counselors.
Vilas said, "Of course students of color come and talk about issues dealing with race, but in my years here the campus has become far more diverse, even though it is still dealing with its old image of being an elite white male school. There is an adjustment period that minority students face when they come to a new environment like this that can cause some anxiety."
According to the Counseling Services's Mission statement, "The essential mission of the Counseling Service at Bowdoin College is to facilitate individual journeys through the landscapes of change, while nurturing a sense of connection to others and of one's place in the larger world."
The Counselors encourage students to come make use of the facility even if they don't feel like the issues they are dealing with are that problematic.
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