By Claire Corrigan
Starting college is a very exciting time for the average 18 year old. Moving into a new house, making new friends and finally experiencing all the freedom they ever dreamt of.
However, most students may feel overwhelmed at some point during their first year of college. They can find that having to make their own decisions is not always as easy as they thought it would be – especially when it comes to important things such as balancing work and play, peer pressure and new romances. Students may also experience mental health issues, like depression.
According to Aware.ie, depression is a common condition that affects up to 10% of teenagers at any one time and can cause young students to lose interest in hobbies, academia and friendships, and make them want to hide away from the world. Aware.ie also warns young people about using alcohol as a way of coping with their new environment. As a depressant, alcohol can prove a potent trigger to low mood; especially in individuals already prone to depression.
The human brain continues to develop until the age of 25, so street drugs like cannabis can have a devastating impact on both mental and physical health. Trying to cope with problems such as depression, anxiety or stress alone is a lot to deal with and students who experience these feelings should reach out for support where they can. This is where the Student Advice Centre can help.
The Centre is located on the ground floor of The Henry Grattan Building, and was opened in January 2008 by Dr. Claire Bohan, Director of Student Support and Development. It aims to help students with queries on all matters – be they academic, personal or financial. It is one of the 11 units that make up Student Support and Development on campus. The other units include the Counselling and Personal Development Unit, the Health Centre and Career Services.
Head of the Student Advice Centre, Deirdre Moloney says the Centre is, “open to all students, undergraduate and postgraduate and we deal with students all through the year, even outside the academic year.” Sometimes students can feel that they are alone in the way they feel but the Student Advice Centre aims to listen to students’ worries and determine what kind of help they need.
“A student can come to us with an issue and then we refer them on to their Chairperson or, for something more serious, maybe counselling or to the Health Centre,” says Moloney. “If anyone has any queries at all and if they’re worried themselves, they can come in and have a chat with us and we’ll point them in the right direction.”
Moloney acknowledges that first year students sometimes take time settling into college life.
“We would consider the first year the ‘First Year Experience.’ It’s something that everybody has to go through,” she says. “It’s normal and it’s a standard process that students go through, so we’re aware of their needs and will help them every step of the way until they find their feet.”
College life can be a wonderful experience and students are encouraged to enjoy their time in university.
The Student Advice Centre is open from Monday to Friday, from 9.30am to 5pm throughout the year. The Centre is also contactable through SKYPE during normal working hours for students who are unable to go to the office. This year, the Centre has introduced a Resource Library which allows students to browse through a variety of support booklets online.