Students should take advantage of free mental health sessions

The University announced last month it would double the number of free mental health sessions students can attend at Mental Health Services. As finals week stress looms and Mental Health Awareness Month shifts attention toward the issue, students should take the time to focus on their mental health, whether they have a history of mental health issues or not.

There is often a negative stigma around counselors and mental health that can stop people from seeking help. But as the perception of mental health has slowly changed from being negative to being more approachable, students have advocated for improved services and gained the voice they deserve when it comes to their mental health. At large universities, students can feel like they are just a number or a name on a list, but increasing the number of free sessions at Mental Health Services is attempting to change that. GW is one of the universities across the country that has made a commitment to its students by offering expanded services by offering students 12 free counseling sessions next academic year.

Addressing mental health concerns requires a first step from students. Now that the University has put a focus on mental health, students must opt in. They can easily book an appointment with a counselor for an evaluation in person or over the phone. The initial consultation and five following consultations are currently free, regardless of insurance, and fees are determined for each individual student.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, students should familiarize themselves with their options when it comes to their mental health – especially because this month falls in line with a stressful final exam period. The feeling of stress that surrounds final exams and projects doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and students should take advantage of the sessions that are available if they want to talk about problems they are facing.

Whether it’s general stress or a more serious condition, talking about your symptoms and taking a step back can be helpful. Sitting down with a mental health professional can also illuminate ways to deal with symptoms, even if you didn’t consider them part of a mental health issue prior to your appointment.

While stress is something that everyone deals with and short-term stress isn’t necessarily harmful, long durations of stress can cause conditions like depression or anxiety to develop.

Finals season is inherently stressful. It’s an overwhelming time in your academic life, but it’s also a tricky time in a student’s personal life as they get ready to return home or graduate. But stressful situations do not have to be endured alone and devoting time to improving mental health can pay off in the long run. GW is moving forward to make mental health services more accessible for students, and we should take advantage of the sessions to not only check in on ourselves, but to help get rid of the negative stigmas around seeking support.

Marin Christensen, a freshman, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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