End-of-Semester Pressures and Mental Health
By Ashley Kilday, Contributing Writer
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, the national movement to raise awareness about mental health in order to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for policies that support the millions of people in the U.S. affected by mental illness. Recognizing that May is also one of the most stressful months for our campus community, contributing writer Ashley Kilday turned to an expert for information and resources.
Now that Spring Break is firmly in the rearview mirror, pressure is ramping up as Gators take stock of where they stand academically. As students either remain focused on their goals or start to sweat as finals approach, we caught up with UHD Director of Counseling Services Naomi Berger-Perez to talk about mental health resources available to them.
UHD offers in-house counseling services, thanks to President Blanchard’s initiatives and emphasis on mental health. Unlimited counseling appointments are available to students, and Student Health Services offers either face-to-face or virtual appointments. Supporting the mental health of the student body is crucial for the University. “Transitioning into a face-to-face environment or even a hybrid environment is like reacclimating to society as students come onto the campus for their studies, some for the first time,” Perez said. “The post-pandemic atmosphere has been difficult even for some staff.”
Offering support for those working through a soured relationship or dealing with anxiety and depression, Counseling Services also offers resources for those struggling with addictive behaviors. “We just had our first Gators in Recovery Program,” Perez said. “It’s a recovery community that supports people who want to get a handle on certain behaviors.”
Perez said she has lately become aware of the presence and use of unmarked or tainted medication as students cope with mounting pressures. “This is a concerning topic, especially as you consider college students who need medication to focus or sleep or stay awake,” she said.
Additionally, the nationwide shortage of prescription medication such as Adderall may cause some students to turn to unregulated channels to purchase whatever they can get. “Sharing medication of any kind is never a good idea,” Perez cautioned. “There are so many different makeups or dosages of these prescription medications. It may look the same but may not be what you usually take. Prescribers take into account a patient’s medical history, sometimes even their DNA. Even if you think you’re taking something similar, it may affect your body because your chemical makeup and body conditions are different.”
“In particular, those who may be affected [by the Adderall shortage] should have a conversation with their doctor. Psychiatrists sometimes have samples of medication in their office, or they can make other recommendations. I would encourage students to also identify some therapeutic coping skills they can utilize as an alternative,” Perez said. “I know it’s not always possible with some diagnoses. The best results always happen when a patient takes their medication and also receives therapy. If you have a therapist in your corner, and your medication is not available, they can come up with helpful strategies.”
Potential consequences of taking unprescribed medication vary, and in some cases could result in death. “Your brain or heart could be affected,” Perez said. “You could experience organ failure. Even if you don’t die, you could damage your central nervous system, which could lead to long-term chronic medical conditions. There is also the real possibility of the presence of dangerous substances such as fentanyl.”
“I would encourage students, faculty, and staff who are feeling the pressures of the mid-semester or work-life balance to reach out to the resources around them, such as our counseling services or the Employee Assistance Program,” Perez said.
For more about UHD’s counseling team and their efforts around outreach and engagement as they seek to push mental health to the forefront, check out this recent UHD News article.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.