Special Topics

Adjusting to College Life

Jeanne Keahon, CSW

Going to college is a wonderful opportunity for personal growth...

Of course not all students will respond to these changes by becoming distressed. How we respond to stress depends on a combination of factors: heredity, general health, childhood history, and coping skills which the student may have already developed. It also depends on what else may be going on in the student's life such as a parents illness, parents divorce, the death of a friend or some other significant event can easily raise the cumulative stress to a detrimental level.

People respond to stress in different ways. Some become more anxious, some become withdrawn and depressed or both. The first signs of trouble might be difficulty with concentrating in class. There may be changes in sleeping and eating. Some students complain of not being able to get to sleep. Some report waking up in the early hours of the morning and not being able to get back to sleep. Some are consumed with worry. Some are sleeping much longer than what is normal for them and have begun missing morning classes. Some students report not being able to eat although they feel hungry. Many complain of feeling tired and fatigued and have a lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Often students will confide that they have noticed difficulty getting along with others. Their friends accuse them of being irritable and short tempered. They may also be overwhelmed with sadness and become hypersensitive and cry easily.

Unfortunately, many students will attempt to improve the situation by "self-medicating" with the use of alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to feel better. Perhaps this approach will seem to provide temporary relief but it does not enhance coping skills and may intensify a developing depression or anxiety disorder.

The best approach to dealing with stress is to first recognize and acknowledge the stress. Many people get into trouble because they are not aware of their body's response to stress e.g. back and neck aches caused by muscle tension or jaw pain due to clenching or teeth grinding abdominal pain and headaches.

The next step is taking care of yourself. If you are not sure where to start the Counseling, Health and Wellness Center is a great starting point. There are experts on staff who can help you with developing a plan that's right for you. A good plan includes emotional support, a good health exam, relaxation, recreation, and an appropriate exercise program and diet.

The counselors at the Counseling Center are especially experienced with college students and the issues they are facing. They can help you develop an individualized plan to successfully cope with the stresses of college life. In some cases severe and prolonged reactions to stress may require more intensive treatment including antidepressant and/or anti-anxiety medication. The counselors at the center can make a preliminary evaluation and assist with appropriate referrals if needed.

What is not recommended is doing nothing. Prolonged stress can wear a person down emotionally and physically and unnecessarily lead to poor academic performance and other problems.

The Counseling Center is located on campus in the Counseling, Health, and Wellness building. Services are confidential and without charge. For appointments call 436-3368. 

Alcohol and Drugs

There are a lot of important issues and decisions college students must make regarding alcohol and drug use. Below are a list of topics that you may find helpful. The Counseling Center at Oneonta has an Alcohol/Drug specialist who can provide counseling, education, and consultation surrounding AOD issues for students. If you have a question or want to talk to someone about your own or someone else's drinking or drug use, you can call the counseling center for a consultation or make an appointment to speak with a counselor.

Use an interactive Blood Alcohol Content calculator to check your BAC after your usual alcohol consumption.

Are you concerned about your drinking?

What do you do if you think someone you care about is drinking too much?

What do you do if someone around you is bothering you because of their use of alcohol or other drugs?

If you decide to use alcohol, how much is too much, and how do you know?

Visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse for information about addiction and treatment.

Read the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and, Alcoholism  brochure about "How To Cut Down On Your Drinking".

Take the survey mentioned in the above video.

Visit SUNY Oneonta's Alcohol and Other Drug Committee webpage to find out about alcohol and drug use on our campus and see what our campus community is doing to spread awareness and provide education.

Does someone you care about have a drinking problem?

Jeanne Keahon, CSW

"When he drinks, he gets way out of control, We don't know what to do about it." 

"I worry that she's going to get hurt, her personality changes when she drinks, you can't reason with her. Someday she's going to go home with the wrong guy." 

"He's going to fail out if he doesn't cut down on his drinking, I know he's missing his classes." 


You might be a partner, family member or a friend. Whatever the relationship, a problem drinker's behavior can be a great source of worry. Eventually your worry and concern about the drinker begins to impact on your life. 

You are not alone if you think you need help. Many students seek counseling to address their concerns about someone else's drinking. They have begun to realize and accept that there is a problem and it is out of their control. Many attempts to limit the drinking or control the drinker's behavior have failed. They ask, "How can I help?" Often they find they need help themselves because of the impact on their own lives.

According to addiction experts, the first step is recognizing and accepting that there is a problem. Unfortunately everyone around the drinker reaches this step before the drinker. Family and friends begin to identify how the drinking impacts on them. Partners complain of a range of emotional problems from mild anxiety to depression. In addition to the emotional strain, there may be relationship conflicts with friends, family and community. There may even be encounters with law enforcement. They feel frustrated and powerless.

If you are one of the lucky ones, you will seek help from a counselor or support group before losing yourself in the problem. People experienced with addictions know how easy it is to slip into a care-taking or rescuing role when closely involved with a problem drinker. A counselor can help you understand the dynamics of addiction and help you to realize what helps and what doesn't. The terms "enabling" and "detachment" will be introduced. The initial goal would be to help you sort out what is your responsibility and what is the drinker's responsibility, and to hold the drinker accountable for his or her own behavior. This is easier said than done.

How close you are to the drinker, and how long you have shared your relationship, can make "detachment" difficult. Coping patterns such as controlling, blaming and manipulating the drinker might be well established. Finding alternate ways of coping takes time, skill, and trust in your counselor. Slogans borrowed from AA can keep you on track when the going gets rough. "One day at a time" and "First things first" can help you with the problem of obsessive worry. If you are closely involved with a problem drinker, it is likely that you have become an expert worrier. You have the amazing ability to look into the future, anticipate catastrophes and develop a contingency plan. This coping pattern can be exhausting and is usually ineffective, but provides the comforting illusion that progress is being made. Many students report problems with concentration and memory. Their preoccupation with the problem drinker makes them tired and emotionally worn out which begins to impact on their academic performance.

Probably the most important thing to remember about someone else's drinking is that, you didn't cause it, you can't control it and you can't cure it. Many close friends and relatives affected by someone else's drinking, feel guilty and ashamed. They often feel responsible for the problem drinker's behavior. This is especially so, because the problem drinker rarely accepts responsibility for his or her behavior, and will often attribute their difficulties to other causes. 

"Letting go" is another helpful slogan. The phrase is a reminder to let the problem drinker experience the consequences of his or her drinking. This is where a professional counselor can be a great support. Establishing your own boundaries and limits, will help you to avoid "enabling" behavior, when the problem drinker asks you to make excuses or bail him or her out of trouble. "Letting go" is also a reminder to keep the focus on yourself and avoid trying to control someone else's drinking while letting them know how their problem impacts on you and suggesting where they can get appropriate help.

As you put into practice some of the concepts mentioned, you might find that the problem drinker's problems seem to escalate. This might be an effort to re-engage you in old familiar enabling behaviors and sometimes it's a natural course of events with an untreated drinking problem. A counselor can help you get a handle on your life, avoid self blame and feel better about yourself whether the person you care about continues to drink or not. 

If you would like more information about these issues, please contact Jeanne Keahon or Suzanne Clarke at the Counseling Center. Suzanne also facilitates a group for Children of Addictive Systems on Mondays at 3pm. This is an open discussion/support group that you may join at any time.

Here are some websites that provide resources for children of alcoholics or drug addicts:
Adult Children of Alcoholics
Al-Anon/Alateen website

Second Hand Alcohol

Suzanne Hollist, CSW and Suzanne Clarke, CSW, CASAC

Everyone is aware of second hand smoke, but second hand alcohol is also a reality. We are well aware of the serious consequences of drinking and driving, and know of the affects one person's excessive drinking can have on family and close friends. (see Does Someone You Care About Have a Drinking Problem) There has been consciousness raising around the dangers of sexual assault as it is related to alcohol. We don't want to minimize the severity of these problems, but most students are impacted by excessive drinking in less drastic, but more common ways. 

Jennie is awakened in the night when her roommate comes home sick and drunk and she gets up to take care of her. Jack gets a call from his pal who is downtown and drunk and wants Jack to come pick him up so he won't get a DWI. Jennie and Jack both have tests the next morning. They had studied, planned to get a good night's sleep, and get up in time to review their notes and get to class. Instead they barely wake up in time to pull on a pair of sweats and a baseball cap and get to the test. They are not thinking as well as they would like and later are upset because they missed some questions they really knew. 

Mike lives off campus with some friends. He didn't realize that the friends would use the house as a party center and he can never get any studying done. He has a hard time getting any sleep at all. Paula gets up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and finds vomit all over the toilet bowl and even in the wash basins. Kerry likes to go downtown on weekends and dance and go to the bars, but she is careful to space her drinks and not drink too much. However, because she is sober it seems that she always ends up taking care of someone who is less responsible about drinking. Susan feels alone and isolated because she believes she is the only one on campus who isn't going downtown and partying. Tony joined a fraternity his freshman year. He had done a lot of drinking in high school and continued to drink in college, but about his third year, he decided he really wanted to cut back on his drinking. He still likes his fraternity brothers, but feels he must continue his heavy drinking if he wants to be a part of the fraternity. Frank went away for the weekend and came back to school to find that his roommate had been drunk and angry and trashed his stereo.

There is a perception on the campus that most students are drinking and drinking a lot several times a week. In actuality, 28% of the students on this campus report not drinking alcohol at all, and another 71% report consuming alcohol once a week or less (2004 CORE data). Perhaps the explanation for the perception lies in the fact that a large majority of students are affected in some way by drinking. The College Alcohol Study by the Harvard School of Public Health revealed that between 65% and 87% of students living on campus experienced one or more problems as a result of some one else's drinking.

What can you do if you are experiencing the secondhand affect of someone else's drinking? Is there anything you can do? In reality there are times when there is nothing you can do, but there are other situations where you can do something or refrain from doing something which can be helpful to you and perhaps to your friends. While you can't change someone else's behavior, you might be able to change your own.

Sometimes you may feel loyalty to a friend even though they have made some poor choices. Jennie and Jack and Kerry all seem to be loyal friends. Part of their self-image may be that they are always there for their friends. However, by being so helpful, they are jeopardizing their own well being and may actually be encouraging their friends in inappropriate behavior. They can't change their friends' behavior, but they can let their friends know that they don't intend to take care of them when they have been drinking too much. Unfortunately alcohol can be deadly and when someone has overdosed, is hurt or unconscious, or has been a victim of a crime, emergency measures must be taken.

Mike feels that he is the only one in his house who is disturbed by the excessive drinking. He might want to check with his housemates one on one and see if all of them really want the house to be a party house. It may be that he is in the majority. In that case, they can set up some house rules. If he really is the only one who doesn't want to party, he may have to make arrangements to move. In the meantime, he can study on campus or at a friend's, and buy some earplugs. Just because his house is a party house, doesn't mean he has to be a party animal.

Susan's feelings of being alone and isolated because she is not a drinker may be the most common complaint on campus. It may be especially difficult if Susan is a little shy. Some students have successfully navigated this situation by taking it very slow. If Susan can remember that she isn't always going to feel this way and stay focused on other areas, she may find herself with the kind of social life she wants. It never hurts to focus on studies and grades; a good GPA the first year at school is a great cushion. At the same time, Susan could be aware of other opportunities on campus to feel more a part of the school. She can join clubs around her interests, or get involved with the Center for Social Responsibility. If she has a religious affiliation, she may make contact with the Campus Ministry. The important thing for Susan to remember is that there are many others who feel the way she does.

Chances are Tony's fraternity brothers will be so involved in their own drinking, they won't even notice that he has cut back on his drinking. If they do and comment to Tony on it, he can tell them he has just decided its time for him to move on and cut back. He isn't trying to tell them what they should or should not be doing. If that is not enough, Tony may have to evaluate just how genuine his fraternity brothers are.

The cases of Paula and Frank are a little more complicated. Frank's roommate has destroyed property, which is a legal problem. And Paula and her hall mates are exposed to disease spreading conditions. In each case, getting help from RAs and RDs is good first step.

While we have discussed just a few possibilities, it is easy to see that drinking can impact almost everyone on campus. For those who are affected by second hand alcohol there are measures you can take to make change. If you are planning on making some changes in the way you are relating to drinking friends, it may be wise to let them know ahead of time when they are sober. "You are a good friend and I like to help you, but I'm not coming to get you any more when you're drunk. Take a cab or get the bus." "The next time barf all over our room, I'll clean it up because I can't stand it, but I'll use your favorite shirt." Remember that any consequences a friend may suffer are a result of his or her behavior, not yours.

How Much Is Too Much?

Suzanne Clarke, LCSW, CASAC

The whole area of psychoactive substances and intoxication is so fraught with opinion, politics, and subjectivity that we can get to a point where landmarks such as "normal" and "too much" are not clear. Parents and college administrators who want students to drink less or not at all, are seen as humorless old folks, who had their fun and now want to deprive others. On the other hand college drinkers are sometimes seen as ill informed, irresponsible, carefree and on a rush of omnipotence and invulnerability. Contrary to media portrayal, consuming alcohol is not a prerequisite for attending college. At this college, 28% of our students report no alcohol consumption, while another 71% report consuming alcohol once a week or less (2004 CORE data).

If you decide to drink, where do you "set the dial"? That is, what level of consumption do you decide is acceptable in terms of it's consequences for you.

First of all, alcohol is a depressant, meaning from the first drink it depresses or slows down virtually all your body systems and functions. For each drink it just keeps doing more of that. Most deaths from "alcohol poisoning" are due to your breathing stopping, or vomit lodging in your airway, and your being too much in coma and too weak to clear it. So that is definitely too much. We know that a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of about .40 will be fatal about 50% of the time. A 160 pound male would reach a BAC of about .40, after drinking about 18 beers over 4 hours. For a 120 pound female, 11 beers in 4 hours would come pretty close to producing a BAC of .40. If you want to calculate your blood alcohol content anonymously, on-line, you can go to: Interactive BAC calculator

If you decide that you are going to use alcohol, you should know approximately what BAC levels you are reaching during your drinking. That way you will have at least an idea of whether you are getting legally intoxicated (.08), extremely drunk (.20), near coma (.30), or near the lethal dose (.40). Try this: When you use alcohol, what time do you usually have your first drink? How many drinks do you usually have over the course of the night? What time would you usually have your last drink? Now go to the web site above and enter that data, along with your gender and weight. See what BAC you reach on a typical drinking occasion.

The most common way to end up in trouble from alcohol, however, is from accidents: Falling down stairs, out windows, off roofs and porches, and of course car crashes. This is true because alcohol affects your ability to balance, your hand-eye coordination, and reaction time, as well as your judgment and ability to process information. This effect on judgment and processing also contributes to the high correlation between alcohol consumption and sexual assault.

When people consume alcohol regularly over a long period of time, the incidence of problems in their lives increases. Alcohol related consequences in life are things like: Bad grades, problems in romances, friendships and family relationships, loss of jobs, fights, arrests, health problems, money problems, trouble with memory and using your cognitive ability. Sometimes people get to the point where they feel that their lives have become an unmanageable mess. At a certain level of alcohol consumption, the likelihood of these problems really starts to rise. What is that level? Well, if you crudely average out the findings from several different studies, problems in life start to increase substantially when men drink more than 14 drinks per week and more than 4 on any day, and for women who drink more than 9 drinks in any week and more than three drinks on any day.

But there are other ways of looking at this as well. Some people should probably not drink at all. For example, if one of your parents or some of your relatives have problems with alcohol or are "alcoholic", you are at greater risk for developing problems. So much so, that many professionals believe that these people should avoid alcohol altogether.

Some interesting research sheds some light on how this works for men. About 8 to 9% of all men will, at some time in their lives, meet criteria for being alcohol dependent or "alcoholic". For sons of alcoholic fathers, 42% will meet criteria for alcohol dependence at some time in their lives. If you have an alcoholic father, and are a "low responder" to alcohol, your chances of becoming "alcoholic" yourself are about 60%. "Low responders" are people who seem to be able to drink more than others, with fewer effects, even from their first drinking experience.

Another way for you to assess your own drinking, privately, is to go to here: Online Alcohol Screening Tests

There you will find access to two different screenings tests that are widely used to screen for alcohol problems. These tests are online and interactive, so you will get a score immediately. A real advantage to doing this online is that you never have to disclose your identity, or give information about your actual alcohol consumption to another person. You do it all by yourself by computer.


If you are drinking too much...

If you decide that you are drinking too much, there are several things you can do. One thing you might consider is talking to one of the Counselors at the Counseling Center or to a health practitioner at the Health Center. These are objective people outside your self, and they will give you honest feedback or assistance based upon their experience with lots of college students.

Another strategy to try is cutting down or changing your drinking habits on your own. Most people who have ever had problems related to their drinking, stop drinking or cut down on their own and without formal help. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has a brochure that might help get you started. Take a look at "How To Cut Down On Your Drinking" here.

There are books to help you do this too, like: How to control your drinking, by William Miller and Ricardo Munoz, and there are several others as well. Check out our recommended reading webpage, our links page or a good bookstore's "self help" section.

Another option for consideration is to attend a meeting of a self help group, like Alcoholics Anonymous. They welcome newcomers to "open" meetings. Meetings are listed each day in the local newspaper, The Daily Star.

More formal treatment is available too and that includes out-patient counseling and in-patient rehabilitation at clinics which specialize in treating chemically dependent people. To find a listing of some of the local Oneonta counseling and treatment resources, check out our community resources page.

If you are getting concerned about your drinking, or a friend's drinking, try talking with one of the counselors at the Counseling Center. We can help you figure out the best way to begin. 

Anxiety

It is very normal to have some anxiety, stress, worry, and fears. Certain kinds of anxiety can actually help us. For instance, when we feel worried about a test we are motivated to study harder to pass it. However, there are times when we feel so stressed out or worried that it starts to interfere with our ability to study or perform the work we need to do.

Are you stressed? Do you think you may have an anxiety problem?
Try an anxiety screening

Learn more about anxiety

Read some tips  for coping with Stress

Here is some information about different aspects of Anxiety:
Anxiety disorders
Shyness and Social Anxiety
Panic and Panic Attacks
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Or try a self-assessment survey for a specific type of anxiety problems from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America
     Generalized anxiety disorder
     Obsessive compulsive disorder
     Panic disorder
     Post Traumatic Stress disorder
     Social anxiety disorder
     Phobias

Try some of these ways to manage anxiety or stress:
Relaxation Exercises - hear MP3's of our counselors guiding you through a relaxation exercise
Meditation - learn how to meditate
Journaling - Online journaling instruction and exercises
Positive thinking
Exercise - Check out our campus recreation and intramurals webpage!
 

While anxiety is very normal and everyone experiences anxiety, if it starts to interfere with your ability to fulfill normal obligations or duties, it is important to get help with your Anxiety. If you would like help with an anxiety or other issue make an appointment at the counseling center.

In the Event of a Crisis

When frightening or upsetting events occur on our campus, on other college campuses or in the community, it can be very traumatic for a person. The campus community, and especially the Counseling Center, is here to support students who are struggling in reaction to events like these. We want to support the campus community in healing from these events and offer these tips for helping yourself and others.

Responses to Trauma
It is very normal to have a variety of emotional reactions to concerns about safety. Some common reactions include:

  • Denial, shock, numbness
  • Feeling vulnerable or unsafe
  • Anxiety, panic, worry
  • Irritability, anger, moodiness
  • Being hyper-alert or vigilant
  • Headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances
  • Helplessness or hopelessness
  • Sadness, crying, despair
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Withdrawal, isolation
  • Remembering other traumas
  • It is also not unusual to have no reaction at all

Coping Suggestions

  • Recognize your feelings and understand that they are a normal reaction to an upsetting situation. Give yourself time to heal.
  • Talk about the experience. Talking about your feelings and thoughts is healing.
  • Reach out to family and friends for support. Connecting to people can be comforting when traumatic events occur.
  • Give someone a hug – touch can also be very healing.
  • Take good care of yourself. Start simply by focusing on eating and sleeping well. Take care of your body.
  • Get physical activity. It helps you release stress in the body.
  • Learn relaxation exercises or meditation.
  • Take it one day at a time. Set small manageable goals until you feel ready to manage everything you normally would.
  • Keep your routines as much as possible. Structure your time to help you stay on track with your studies. Schedule breaks because it helps you keep your energy up.

How to Help a Friend or Family Member

  • Listen and empathize. Be supportive and non-judgmental.
  • If they aren’t ready to talk about it, respect their need for space. Let them talk about it when they feel ready. Tell them you are ready to listen when they are ready to talk.
  • Respect the person’s need for privacy.
  • Ask the person what they need in terms of support. If it’s ok with them, increase contact and check in with them more often.
  • Reinforce the feeling of safety when you can. Help them problem solve around situations or times when they don’t feel safe.
  • Offer praise for getting through a difficult situation.
  • It’s normal for people to struggle and have emotional reactions to traumatic situations. Believe in their resilience. Just because they are having emotional reactions to the situation, doesn’t mean they can’t handle it. It doesn’t mean they won’t be ok. Its just part of their process of getting better. Normalize that they are allowed to have reactions. Express your faith in their ability to get through the feelings and to find healing.
  • Refer them for counseling if you see them unable to function (not sleeping, eating, or going to class or work) or feeling stuck after a significant period of time.

Resources

  • 24 hour Crisis Line: 1- 844-732-6228
  • 24 hour Crisis Text Line
  • Counseling Center 607-436-3368
  • Health Center 607-436-3575
  • University Police 607-436-3550
  • Student Development Office 607-436-3353
  • Residential Community Life 607-436-3182
  • Office of Student Diversity and Advocacy 607-436-3353
  • Gender & Sexuality Resource Center 607-436-2190
  • Employee Assistance Program 607-436-2452

Thanks to Binghamton University and Dartmouth University Counseling Centers for their contributions to this essay.

Depression 

What is Depression?

Some symptoms of depression.

Depression Screening.  Are you depressed?

More information and links.

Depression and Suicide

What is Depression?

Depression is a serious illness. It's more than "feeling blue" and more than "a little sad". Often people refer to sad feelings as "depression": "My girlfriend dumped me. I'm so depressed!" or "I completely blanked out on that test. I'm SO DEPRESSED!" or "I was supposed to go home this weekend, but my ride canceled. I'm depressed!". Probably what people mean in these situations is that they feel sad. Sadness is what you feel when you experience a negative consequence, a disappointment, a loss, or maybe a rejection. Everyone feels sad sometimes. It's an appropriate feeling under certain circumstances, and a part of the normal range of human feelings.

So, if a romance doesn't go the way you wanted, or you fail a calculus test, you would probably feel sad. Everyone would feel some degree of sadness in those circumstances... Then a few days later it would start to pass. After a while you would start to figure out what to do next. You would remain optimistic about the future. You wouldn't excessively blame yourself and feel guilty. You would continue on with your life, and in the end you would get back to your usual self.

That's pretty much how sadness goes: You feel it for a while: A few days, or a week. Then it starts to get better. You return to your usual activities, and your usual range of feelings. You work something out, or solve the problem, or come up with some options. You "chalk it up to experience", move on with your life, and feel better over time.

But some times that's not how it goes. Maybe something really bad happens: Someone dies, you have a serious illness, your parents split up, or you are a crime victim. Or maybe you experience one of the "normal" things like a bad test grade, a difficult romance, or some other disappointment, but instead of getting better, you continue to feel sad. Maybe it continues for weeks and more and more things start to pile up. You start to feel like you have no options, and there's nothing you can do. You lose sleep, or start sleeping too much. You might find yourself feeling guilty, like you can't do anything right, like you will always be a "screw up", and "life sucks".

Maybe now you are slipping into a depression.

People who have depression cannot just "get over it". With depression, it appears that at some point the chemicals in your brain become affected. Why this happens is not entirely clear. For some people there may be no easily identifiable "trigger". They may just begin feeling more and more sad. For others maybe a "life event", big or small, will start the process. For some people the shortening days of fall and winter can bring it on. The good news is that depression is treatable. With medication or with counseling, or a combination of both, most people can get well, and feel better.

Some symptoms of depression...

Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day. Sometimes it may be others who will notice that you are tearful a lot or "look sad".
Diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all you activities. For most of the day, nearly every day.
Significant weight loss or gain when you are not trying, or loss or gain in appetite.
Trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much.
Being restless or jittery or the other way: Being slowed down in your movements
Feeling fatigue and low energy, nearly every day.
Feeling like you are "worthless" or having excessive guilt.
Having difficulty concentrating, making decision, and thinking.
Thoughts of death, of hurting yourself. Thinking about suicide.

Different people may experience these differently. Some people truly may not realize they are depressed. It may take a friend pointing out that something is wrong.

Screening for depression: Are you depressed?

The Mayo Clinic has an online, interactive Depression Screening Test. Take the depression screening test..

More information about depression...

The American Psychiatric Association has information about a wide variety of problems. Their information is very factual, and usually represents "state of the art" for that particular problem. To link to the APA Website on depression, follow this link.

Likewise, the American Psychological Association also has information available on a wide variety of problems, including depression. Their information is also "state of the art" in its factual accuracy. Read their brochure about how psychotherapy can help with depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health is also an excellent source of information for current information about depression. NIMH site.Read what the NIMH writes about Depression.

Suicide...

Feeling suicidal is a "special case". Students sometimes think that feeling suicidal is a normal part of growing up, and something that everyone goes through, or feels from time to time. In reality, it is almost certainly a sign that you are depressed or over stressed. If you find yourself thinking that life isn't worth living, thinking about death a lot, or feeling that killing yourself may be the only way out, that certainly is not usual sadness. Tell someone! Come to the Counseling Center or to the Health Center. Tell a minister or priest, or rabbi, or your doctor. Talk to a coach, a roommate, a friend, a family member, or parent. Tell a teacher or advisor. But tell someone. Students can call the Counseling Center at 436-3368. Counseling Center services are available to SUNY Oneonta students at no charge, and appointments are generally available in one to two days. Counselors are trained professional people, who have a lot of experience talking with people who feel suicidal. If the Counseling Center is not available, you can call the 24-hour Crisis Services line at 1-844-732-6228. The Crisis Service is for emergencies only. If you are feeling suicidal or self destructive and are perhaps at risk of harming yourself, THAT IS AN EMERGENCY. You do not have to feel that life is not worth living. Things can get better, and you can feel better. If you feel suicidal, don't go it alone.

For more information about suicide...

The United States Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, issued "A Call to Action to Prevent Suicide, 1999". This report contains a large amount of very interesting information. To see what the Surgeon General had to say, click here.

View more information about suicide prevention, to go to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Eating disorders

Eating Disorders are characterized by a significant disturbance in eating behavior such as restricting food, bingeing and purging, or binge eating. Eating Disorders can emerge from complex factors including physical or medical, psychological, cultural, and familial sources. Those with eating disorders are often ashamed and secretive about their eating behavior and may initially be reluctant to seek help. This page is intended to provide some links to information about eating disorders that may help you or help a friend who is struggling with their eating behavior, weight, or body image. There is also a self-screening below to determine if you may have symptoms of an eating disorder, and links to general information about treatment for eating disorders. If you are seeking treatment locally, you can start by contacting the Counseling Center. 

Learn more about Eating disorders by visiting the National Eating Disorders Association website. 

Take a screening to see if it's time to seek professional help. 

Try these resources also:

Watch the PBS television show Nova episode on eating disorders and pressure to be thin "Dying to be Thin" online.

Separating Fact from Fiction - In Matters of Size and Weight 

Gambling Problems

Healing after a Sexual Assault

"I thought it was my fault. I felt so filthy, I washed myself over and over in hot water. Was I raped? I kept asking myself. I didn't consent. But who's gonna believe me?"

Every year thousands of men and women are raped by someone they know and trust. This type of rape, commonly called acquaintance or date rape, occurs more frequently than stranger rape and is less likely to be reported.

The term "date rape" is misleading. It suggests that it is not really rape because the assailant is known to the victim. But in fact it is the violation of trust that can make it more damaging. Victims are often blamed for the crime and the rapist is not held accountable. It is blame which complicates the healing process results in secrecy and the perpetuation of the crime.

By listening to rape survivors we gain valuable insight into the healing process. From these courageous men and women who tell their story, we can learn and understand the profound impact rape has on identity and self esteem, and how the path of healing leads to reclaiming personal power that was robbed from them in one brief encounter.

While psychological responses to rape trauma are individual and complex, most rape survivors report the initial feelings of shock, numbness, self blame, anxiety, depression and loss of control. Eventually these responses can result in deep feelings of personal shame, loss of self esteem and an altered view of the world.

Survivors are helped by non judgmental listening. Simply being available and a willingness to listen conveys acceptance and diminishes the tendency to self blame.

Immediately following the rape the victim may be in a state of shock and may need help with decision making, accessing medical attention, and dealing with police and family. However, it is important that the victim make his/her own decisions and regain control of his/her life. Support from family members, friends, a rape crisis counselor is critical at this phase.

As healing progresses, helping may mean not giving help unless its requested, while still being available and accepting of the feelings of frustration, sorrow and depression that may follow.

After rape, survivors experience a flood of strong emotions particularly fear and anger. This can become overwhelming. Professional counseling is suggested if problems emerge such as increased alcohol and drug use, cutting, panic attacks, nightmares and suicidal thoughts.

These complications may surface any time after the rape but for many there may be a delay of several months or even years.

Healing from the trauma of sexual assault is a slow process, there are no shortcuts. For many it is a life long journey. In the final phase of healing survivors become more oriented to action. Many find resolution by becoming involved with education, prevention and support groups. By telling their story, offering support and encouragement to others they find meaning and purpose for the suffering they endured. More importantly as a new self awareness and inner strength takes hold there is an identity shift from victim to survivor.

For more information about recovering from Sexual Assault, read a brochure about self-care and recovery for victims by the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network.

Read about how to help a loved one who has experienced a sexual assault.

For more information on prevention education and advocacy visit the PAIRS website

The Counseling Center is available to students Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM. For an appointment phone 436-3368.

J. Keahon, CSW   

Home for the Holidays

There's no place like home for the holidays. Commercials and holiday shows tell us that the holidays should be shining and perfect. As end of the semester pressures subside, most students can't wait to get home, relax and be around family, eat some decent food, see old friends, go to some parties and participate in family traditions. There is nothing more joyful than a happy holiday season.

However, where there is so much potential for happiness, there is also great risk for disappointment and sadness. Students returning from college can experience a let-down when their expectations are not met.

Some students may have been remembering only the good things about being home, and when they get there, remember that there is a lot of stress in their household. Many students, exhausted from the general stress of college life, are looking forward to a sleeping vacation punctuated with seeing old friends. Meanwhile family members are expecting their college student to be home in both body and spirit. They may be expected to attend a high school concert for a younger sister or do everything a little brother has planned to do. Parents may have plans for a student to help in holiday preparations. When students do get to see their old friends, they often find that everyone had changed and things just aren't the same anymore. Maybe instead of being able to just relax, a student will have to work long hours.

There may have been some changes in family financial status and it is just not possible to have the same level of material gifts a student may be used to. Or as students, there are a million things you want and need and the big gift is an electric blanket.

Holidays are a challenging time for children of any age who have divorced and separated parents. It can be especially difficult if the separation has occurred during the last year and this is the first holiday to negotiate the time between two households.

There may have been other big changes in either the immediate or extended family that may be especially poignant at holiday time. A married sister may be spending the holidays in another state with her husbands family. Maybe Aunt Sadie died last spring and she is the one who always made sure the lighting of the Menorah for Hanukkah was done properly. Maybe a grandfathers health has deteriorated to the point that he can't read the Christmas story for the family on Christmas Eve.

There can be a million other glitches. Students can stretch their physical capacities to the limit, pull several all-nighters, make it through finals and go home and get sick. It seems that holiday time is often a time for broken hearts. A student may be trying to recover. All they want to do is be left alone and get lost in a mystery novel. The car that is desperately needed for student teaching or an internship breaks down. Then there is the stress of the parents who want to relive their lives by talking about everything that is going on in the life of their college student. Besides that, grades from the fall semester can help or add to the tension. 

Communication and negotiation with family members can smooth out many potential problems. Let parents know what your needs are. Be prepared to do some of the things your family has been planning for you. If it is your first time home from college, you may also have to negotiate a curfew.

Negotiating with divorces parents can be extra challenging. There may be situations which you can do nothing about. Think realistically about what would be best for you, and let both of your parents know. Maybe that is just what they need to know. Sometimes there is just nothing you can do, but accept what "is." Sadly, this is also true of families where the parents are still together, but where there is a great deal of conflict.

Be prepared to discover that both you and your friends may have changed and it may mean that you can appreciate the changes rather than just mourning the way things were.

Maybe you are one of those with a broken heart for the holidays. Grieving a lost relationship takes energy. So it's okay to take time out and isolate a little, but also plan to reconnect with family and friends.

Maybe you are one who has suffered some losses in significant people since last year at this time. If that is the case, even if it seems hard, don't run away from the sadness or try to make yourself forget. Plan a more relaxing holiday and give yourself time to remember and be sad and even be glad for the memories. Holiday and family gatherings present an opportunity to reminisce.

To waylay the disappointment from gifts and the loss of holiday magic, try to change your focus outward a little. Look for some new holiday traditions, maybe help in a soup kitchen, play Santa Claus for the neighborhood, visit a nursing home alone or with friends. Cook something new. Plan a different kind of party.

Having realistic expectations, being able to negotiate and making some adjustments can help make it a happy and healthy holiday season.

If you are concerned about your holiday and having a difficult time managing some of your feelings, call 436-3368 to make an appointment with the counseling center.

Home for the Summer

Suzanne Hollist, CSW

"You can't go home again!" the famous quotation from Thomas Wolf may leave you wondering as the college year comes to a close. The reality is that most students will be returning home either for the summer or for a more extended time as they graduate and get established in a job or career. There is always a lot said about adjusting to college life, but there is another adjustment as students return home. One of the most rewarding relationships in life can be that between an adult child and his/her parents, but like any other transition, there can be some rough spots.

You may think you will be returning home to your old room, only it is now occupied by a younger sibling, so you are expected to camp out in the combination office and guest room or you are expected to share your room with its new function as a greenhouse. Since last September you have been coming and going pretty much as you like, you return home to your old high school curfew. Conversely, you dutifully wake your parents when you come in early in the morning only to have them angry because you have interrupted their sleep. You are expected to be present for all family meals and functions, but you have other plans. You expect the old time family meals, but your parents have fallen into another routine and are enjoying the empty nest. You are expected to help with household chores, but you really don't know what chores they are. You find that your clothes when placed in the hamper don't automatically appear clean and folded in your room the next day. You are exhausted from final exams, the end of the year socializing, and moving and just want to sleep for about a week. Your family is delighted to have you home and wants your time, attention, and energy in several activities.

While a great many of these conflicts are inevitable, some of them can be avoided by discussing them beforehand. Ask for a family meeting to talk about expectations about curfews, rules about laundry and use of the washing machine, expectations around meal times, use of the telephone and long distance charges, how household chores are divided. If you are graduating and living at home while you get established, you need to know if you are expected to pay rent and how much. You will need to establish if you can entertain friends, if you can invite friends to stay over - of the same sex, of the opposite sex. If you don't have your own car, you will need to discuss transportation needs. You may need to establish privacy limits and know when boundaries are being invaded even by noise.

There are some guidelines to follow in having a good family meeting. Everyone involved should know those guidelines and be in agreement. Have a clear agenda. Invite other family members to add to the agenda. Have a set time to begin and end. If you haven't completed the agenda in that time frame, summarize what has been accomplished and plan another time to finish. For each agenda item, each family member should be able to say how he or she feels without interruption or criticism. After that you may begin to negotiate and work until you can form a consensus. A summary of the consensus should be stated. Sometimes it is helpful to be more formal and put the summary statements in writing. Just make sure that the agreements are still the same. A follow up meeting should be planned for about two weeks to see how things are going. Some things may need to be renegotiated. It helps if everyone can be patient. Remember that moving back home can be a happy experience, but it may take some energy.

Some families have more complicated challenges. They may be going through some kind of restructuring due to retirement, illness, death, divorce, remarriage, lose of income. There may be a home where one or more members of the family is alcoholic. There may be a younger sibling who is testing limits. There may be abuse in the home. Some students may be discovering that there are problems they didn't realize were there and somehow feel responsible for fixing it. In fact some families may be expecting their college student to come home and act as the chief negotiator and peace maker. Every family is different. Every family has its own challenges.

If you would like further help in understanding your family and where you fit, or if you would like more information on a family meeting, call the Counseling Center at x3368. 

Homesickness

Other Addictions

Sexual Assault Resources

Sleep Problems

Support and Advocacy Post-Election

Support and advocacy in the post-election:
Coping with the negative climate towards immigrants and other diverse groups December 2016

Many students have expressed being disturbed and scared about the messages of oppression, campaign promises of discrimination and deportation, as well as hate crimes and graffiti towards immigrants and people of diverse identities and religions occurring locally and nationally. We at the Counseling Center share your concerns about the current climate of our country and the prospect of bias and discrimination against members of our community who identify as immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ, people of color, women, or people of other diverse identities and religions. Bias and oppression is damaging to a person’s psychological and physical health but it also damages the fabric of our college and the country. We stand with our students and community in condemning all discrimination, bias and hate crimes and advocating for social justice.

SUNY Oneonta’s commitment to providing a safe and welcoming place to all students is strongly affirmed by President Kleniewski and our college administrators. The Counseling Center is here to support students in coping with the negative cultural climate and prospect of bias, discrimination, deportation, and the possible loss of legal rights in the United States. The Counseling Center supports and affirms the rights, education and mental health of all students in our community.

During these uncertain times, we invite students to utilize the Counseling Center for support and coping strategies. We also offer these tips for taking care of yourself as well as your friends and family.

Acknowledge your feelings. It is completely normal to feel scared, betrayed, hurt and angry when faced with these messages of bias and discrimination. Holding feelings in can lead to long-term psychological and health concerns. Vent, journal, share your feelings in a safe place with safe people. Feelings are information about what we need and what is important to us. Use your feelings to guide your self-care and coping strategies.

Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Eat well, exercise, get lots of sleep, do things you enjoy. Spend time in nature. Don’t use alcohol or drugs as a coping strategy. Take good care of yourself. Coping with uncertainty and oppression and (if you choose) getting involved in activism can be exhausting and keeping your body and mind healthy is an important way of maintaining your strength. When you receive messages that someone doesn’t care about you or doesn’t want you here, taking good care of yourself is a radical act of rebellion.

Connect to community. Be with people who support you and whose strength you can lean on when things get hard. There are many, many people in our country and in our community who do not endorse the messages of bias and discrimination. Being around people who love and support you is a way of helping to restore your sense of safety and hope during scary times.
Connect to your values and roots. Connecting to the history of your family, culture or community can be a source of pride and comfort. Reading literature, listening to music, or enjoying art that connects you with your history and identity can help you can help you find strength, pride and courage during these uncertain times.

Self-examination. Times of crisis can also be times of tremendous growth. Examining any areas of privilege or power in your life can help you to be a better ally to people targeted for bias or discrimination. Being clear on your values and examining your thoughts and feelings regarding your membership in both oppressed and privileged groups can help you to be clearer in where you devote your energy and how you use any privilege you might have.

Get active. Activism can make a difference. Contact your government representatives and voice your opinions. Support important political organizations that are fighting oppression and discrimination. Your voice does matter. Doing something constructive with your fear and anger can also be empowering in a time when you might be feeling powerless and hopeless.

Connect to the legacy of activism and Civil Rights movements. Read biographies and learn the history of people who have fought for civil rights before you. If you chose to participate in activism, you are not alone in this. You can find role models and inspiration in knowing that you are part of the legacy of leaders and civil rights activists who made our world better. They all faced dark times in their work and in their worlds and they can provide support and inspiration for your journey.

Be balanced. If you are getting involved in activism, it is also important to take care of yourself and make sure you feel safe. Take a rest when you need one. Rely on other people involved in the movement to keep things going when you need a rest. Connect to people and things that help you feel safe and calm so you have the strength and energy to go the long haul.

Use the resources that are here for you. There are many campus resources who are here to support and protect you. The Counseling Center provides individual and group counseling to students as well as consultation for any member of the campus community. All of our services are free and confidential. Experiencing discrimination, bias or hate crimes can cause stress, anger, sadness, or a variety of other

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