Augusta University sees increase in students seeking mental health counseling

Thursday, October 3, 2019
News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Mental health on college campuses is a growing issue around the nation. A local university is making it their mission to take mental health issues out of the dark and into the light.

Augusta University is "lighting the path" to raise awareness about the mental health issues college students face.

The plan for "Light the Path" is to honor those lost to suicide and open up the conversation about mental health on campus.

A few classes and partying on the weekends maybe your idea of a college student but for many, that's far from the truth.

“I have a job. I work 5 days a week. I have a full class schedule. I have a boyfriend. So, it's just balancing a lot of stuff," said Hailey Netherton, a sophomore at Augusta University-Summerville.

Netherton is a nursing student. During her freshman year, she thought about going to counseling.

"College is hard and being a teenager nowadays is also hard because there's just a lot of stuff going on in the world, ya know," Netherton said.

Students are opening up to counselors much more often.

“More and more students are coming forward. Students are experiencing distress, and they are willing to talk about it,” said Dr. Elena Petrova.

Dr. Petrova is the director of Student Counseling and Psychological Services at Augusta University.

Over the past four years, she's seen a 96 percent increase in appointments scheduled in her office.

Last year, more than 6,000 appointments were made.

"When it comes to some of the first incidents and episodes of mental health concerns, they start to occur in college," Petrova said.

Some of it is the college transition and for others it’s personal, Dr. Petrova says. Most students deal with anxiety or depression, she says.

"It is really about educating our community and educating our students that suicide is preventative and so are mental health concerns," Petrova said.

One of the biggest things is talking about it.

"Normalizing it is a good thing," Netherton said.

"Light the Path" starts at 7 p.m. Thursday night with a conversation about mental health on campus. Students will light the path to the counseling office at 8:15 p.m.

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