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More college students are turning to campus counselors for mental health help

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Parents all across the Piedmont Triad have dropped their students off on their college campus, and, if they haven’t already, most colleges around the state are getting ready to start classes.

While they get ready for the grind of the semester, there are people on campus ready to help them take care of their mind.

Just about every college in North Carolina has a counseling center to help students address mental health concerns. The need has never been greater, and these counseling centers have never been busier.

Jewellianna Bell was introduced to the counseling center during her junior year in the high school program at UNC School of the Arts.

“In my senior year, I started making at least every other week going to the counseling center for at least a half an hour,” she said.

Now a third-year in the college program, she helps connect other students to the counseling center.

“I think with this being an arts conservatory, it is required and demanded that all artists are upfront and vulnerable with their emotions because that’s where a lot of inspiration comes from. That being said, a lot of people become very emotional because you’re very aware of how you’re feeling all the time, and it can be emotionally draining.”

“We probably couldn’t employ enough counselors in the counseling center to meet the demand,” said UNCSA Clinical Case Manager Laurel Banks.

Banks tells us she’s seen a surge since she started seven years ago.

“I would say at least 25% of our student population access our counseling resources here on campus," she said. "And I would say even more than that access our case management services.”

It’s a similar story at North Carolina A&T State University where Dr. Vivian Barnette leads Counseling Services.

“Usually our percentage is about 10% of the students. And we have about 12,000-plus students,” she said.

Earlier this summer we introduced you to Colby Boone — a recent A&T grad whose first time in counseling was on campus — after he attempted suicide.

“I couldn’t feel anything but the warmth of the sun woke me up that morning,” Boone explained. “So I said, 'God, that was my sign.' And the next day, I got up and went to counseling and therapy on campus. I just said I don’t know how to schedule an appointment. I don’t know what the process is, but I have to see somebody, and that was my first step.”

“So what we try to do is look at what’s working well in your life because people need to feel good about where they are and what is going really well for them,” Barnette added. “But in the midst of doing that, we’re also looking at what brought them in.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 75% of mental health conditions begin before a person hits 24 years old —and because of that, college is a critical time for young people struggling with mental illness.

Both Banks and Barnette say the biggest issues their students are facing are anxiety and depression.

As a parent, how can you tell if your student needs to pay them a visit? For starters, they say, remember that you know your child best.

“Students go away to school and things get busy — but if they’re not responding to you at all, I think it’s really important for you to reach out to that campus and let them know you have some concerns,” Banks explained. “Calling the counseling center is one of the options, calling someone in residence life. The Dean of Students' office on just about any campus now has teams set up to work on reaching out to those students and connect to them.”

They also recommend listening.

“If you notice your child is saying something like, 'It’s not really worth it to be here anymore,' some of those types of things that lead you to be concerned, reach out and make a phone call," she said.

On top of anxiety and depression, Barnette says campuses also see issues with loneliness and students not having coping skills, which creates a snowball effect when triggering events happen.

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