Students tackle mental health during ‘midterm season’

Students are busy preparing for midterm exams and projects in this point of the semester. It can be a very difficult time for balancing academic stressors and outside responsibilities, Dr. Hoku Conklin said. (Chris Bunker)

As BYU gets close to the end of “midterm season,” students may experience problems with motivation and mental health.

“I sense some definite fatigue, some sleepy eyes and perhaps some students missing class,” BYU biology professor Marci Shaver-Adams said.

College students shared what their experience has been at this point of the semester.

“I feel like during this time of the semester, I’ve had a hard time finding motivation. A part of it is with the semester coming to an end soon and my mental health starting to take over,” Camila Losik, a junior at BYU, said.

Losik shared her struggles with mental health have included a loss of motivation to go to class, anxiety, and panic attacks.

When she feels anxious or has other negative feelings, she shuts herself out from everyone, she said. These feelings build up the most when she does not talk about it, Losik explained.

When she has brought up her feelings, Losik said she has found others who feel the same way.

“Since I was a student myself, I remember having multiple midterms on top of each other and I can only assume that hasn’t changed,” Adams said. “I’m guessing students want to do well in all their classes and when major assessments happen at the same time, students miss sleep. I certainly did.”

It would be helpful to have more opportunities for students to receive help, Losik expressed, especially at this point of the year “when life gets stressful and people get anxious.”

She has tried getting help with BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services and was not able to, she said.

Hoku Conklin, clinical professor and training director of CAPS, who also provides counseling to students, explained there are more opportunities for help than regular one-on-one sessions.

Students have access to quick-care consultations, group counseling sessions, the Biofeedback Lab and Stress Management Lab and other online resources, Conklin said. Most of these do not require joining a waitlist, he explained.

There are individual groups for different needs, he added, including groups for perfectionism, anxiety, trauma and eating concerns, among others.

“BYU CAPS has one of the largest groups programs of college counseling centers in the country,” he said. “So we’re one of the leading researchers, in specifically group psychotherapy research.”

BYU CAPS offers a variety of services for free to student struggling with mental health, Conklin explained. The CAPS office can be located in room 1500 of the Wilkinson Student Center. (Daily Universe Archives)

Many students might not know the services offered by CAPS are both free and confidential, he said.

Conklin talked about how “it can feel like a lot” for students, because “it is a lot.”

At this point in the semester, there are many exams students are preparing for, as well as other responsibilities that they consider to be important like work, family and relationships, he said, and it can be difficult to balance everything.

“The demand for these services at this point of the semester does go up a little bit,” he said.

Generally, the demand increases in the fall semester compared to the summer time, he explained.

The way students react to having all these responsibilities is a “natural” reaction, which may include not wanting to get out of bed, going to class or doing the work, Conklin added.

Something specific about BYU that has affected Losik is how people view BYU, she said.

Others that learn Losik goes to BYU consider her “one of those smart kids,” she explained.

“Not that I don’t consider myself smart, but in a few of my classes, I don’t feel like I belong at times because everyone is sharing answers that I don’t even understand, and then I get down on myself and think, ‘Why did I even come here?’,” she said.

Though many colleges may be like this, Losik said, she feels at BYU they “expect a specific type of student,” and she does not fit in most of the time.

“We’re in a highly competitive environment,” Conklin said.

There are classes graded on a curve, majors with limited enrollment and many other forces that contribute to “a sense of competition,” which also reinforces “the sense of social comparing,” he explained.

Danielle Raymond, a student at a nursing school in Provo, explained this point of the semester is “hard” and “discouraging” for her as well.

“I do think this is the worst part of the year and the most mentally and emotionally challenging,” she said. “At this point in the semester your grades are basically finalized and as good as they will get.”

She explained as her college career ends, her interest and motivation are also affected by the change in the season and weather.

“It seems especially difficult because the days are shorter and it gets darker quicker,” Raymond said, “and I often feel as though I don’t get to do anything besides studying, homework and schoolwork.”

These factors “definitely increase the risk” of getting depressed, she said.

Especially for students in her school or in a similar program, there is a “great weight” on them and not “enough grace,” she explained.

“I think there should definitely be more resources for students when it comes to trying to balance their school lives, social lives and mental health,” Raymond said. “I do not think mental heath is made a priority when it should be.”

In CAPS, counselors meet with students who may be struggling with anxiety and depression, Conklin said, which can be a result of many factors, including a combination of social, psychological and biological factors.

“It’s important to consider how those factors contribute,” he said.

Concerning psychological factors, the way that individuals or students talk to themselves matters, Conklin shared.

The reactions to being distressed, like disengaging, losing motivation or becoming more tired, are not “bad” but instinctive, he said.

“Sometimes it can be our mind and our body’s way of just letting us know that we’ve been working at a really high rate and we need some rest,” he said. “Or that there are other things that also deserve our care and attention.”

Losik talked about other ways she tries to find calm through all the stress she feels.

“One of the reasons I love taking dance classes at BYU,” she said. “It has helped me let out any emotions I’ve felt during times like this.”

Services at BYU Counseling and Psychological Services can be found here.

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