College could do more to support students with anxiety
You’re sitting in class when you notice your hands start to shake and your heart is pounding. Colors and sounds become vivid around you, and it becomes harder to concentrate on what your professor is saying.
It’s an anxiety attack.
Anxiety is typically described as a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease. Many students get anxiety for different reasons, including exams, social interactions or even the burden of getting through each day.
Far too many people don’t view anxiety as a real issue because everyone gets anxious sometimes. But there’s a difference between being anxious and experiencing anxiety as a mental health disease.
Sophomore Caroline Russell deals with anxiety every day. Russell’s anxiety has caused her to not be able to focus during class. She’s even had to leave because of it.
“It just sucks when it’s in class because that really takes my focus off everything else except my anxiety,” she said. “When it happens, I just get really shaky, and I can’t breathe, and everything gets really vivid.”
Walking out of class isn’t always an option. Some professors get frustrated when a student leaves in the middle of a lecture.
But if these professors were better trained to recognize the signs of an anxiety attack, they could be better prepared to help those students.
Katie Wehner, the assistant dean for academic affairs, said she believes there have been faculty workshops or discussions about students with anxiety, but there has been no formal training.
Russell is just one of many who suffer from anxiety. According to the Aniexty and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults have some sort of anxiety disorder, and 75 percent of them first experienced anxiety by the time they were 22.
There are 40 students who receive additional help or accommodation in their classes at Franklin College, and about 20 percent of those students have self-reported or documented anxiety, according to the college’s Academic Resource Center.
In order to receive accommodations, students must set an appointment with Wehner because each case is handled separately.
The first meeting is just a conversation that helps Wehner know what the student is going though and what kind of help would benefit them.
From there, students are expected to provide documentation stating that they do have anxiety, and Wehner will write up an accommodation memo.
Some of the accommodations that students with anxiety have include extra time on exams and being allowed to do presentations in front of a small group of people rather than the whole class.
Another resource that can help students is the security office.
Russell has called the security office a few times when she has had an anxiety attack in the middle of the night and just needed someone to talk to.
“Last year, I remember I had a bad one, and I called security,” Russell said. “We walked around campus, and we talked for four hours because that’s how long it took for me to calm down.”
While security isn’t trained or equipped to be professional counselors, officers can be someone who provides comfort to a student, especially when it’s late at night and there are no other staff members on campus.
Security can also help you get into contact with the right resources if something major is wrong.
“Our main priority is the safety and security of students,” Director of Security Steve Leonard said. “We want to make sure first and foremost that there’s no danger involved in how a student is feeling and the kinds of things they might be coping with.”
While security and the ARC accommodate students with anxiety, more could be done at the college overall.
Professors should be trained for, or at least made aware of, ways that they can help a student with anxiety.
Professors should also make a note about anxiety in their syllabuses, like the short paragraphs that are included for those dealing with a learning disability.
The college could also host open discussions for people to attend. These discussions could offers tips on how to cope. They could also be useful in teaching students about the different resources available to them.
Anxiety may seem like a small issue for most people, but for many it’s a hindrance that can cause life-altering complications.
By providing more support and awareness, more students will be able to succeed in their academic careers.
THE OPINION BOARD
The Franklin staff believes the college could do even more to help students with anxiety.
STEP BY STEP
How students receive help in the Academic Resource Center
- CONVERSATION: The first step a student should take is to contact Katie Wehner, assistant dean for academic services, and talk to her about what they are struggling with. Wehner said she typically asks questions like, “How does the condition impact you in the classroom?”
- ACCOMMODATION MEMO: The student will receive an accommodation memo after Wehner and the student agree on what would be most beneficial for the student. The student will then be responsible for having the memo signed by each of their professors and turning it back in to the ARC.
- PROVIDE DOCUMENTATION: After having a conversation with Wehner, the next step involves providing documentation of the condition. This should include information about how the condition impacts them.
- FINALIZE ACCOMMODATIONS: Finally, Wehner will initiate a second meeting with the student. In this meeting, Wehner and the student will revisit the items they discussed in the first meeting. They will also finalize the accommodations the student is eligible for.