When Camille Joseph was asked if she ever thought of herself as normal, she quickly and emphatically said “no.”
“I haven’t wondered if I was normal,” the freshman biology student said. “I’ve wondered if I were crazy before.”
For students, depression, parental divorce, new living environments and relationships are identity issues that normally affect college-aged individuals.
“It is normal to question whether the things you are experiencing fall within the realm of normal,” said psychologist Michael Hanowitz of Tuttleman Counseling Services, a free service provided for all Temple students.
Dr. Jeremy Frank, a practicing psychologist of 15 years who works at the center, said Joseph’s questions about her identity are “closely related.”
Joseph said she wouldn’t seek professional help in the event she ever began to feel overwhelmed because then, “that would mean I am crazy.”
Frank said he believes just the opposite.
“You don’t have to be crazy to seek help,” Frank said. “I sometimes find that it is the healthiest member of the family that comes to sit on my couch.”
Acknowledging issues that make students uncomfortable is a big step. Some students are often inclined to keep those issues private, making it difficult to determine whether their experiences are normal.
“I think it’s important that we look at these things that we aren’t comfortable with,” said Kesse Humphreys, a sophomore metals major.
Humphreys openly discusses his depression, saying the world would be a much better place if we had more “uneasy conversations.”
He said students “just don’t want to talk about it,” leaving many to secretly wrestle with an invisible giant.
“It is hard to recognize how one issue can impact everything else in your life,” said a female sophomore, who did not want to be identified.
According to the National College Health Risk Behavior Survey, one in five college women experience unwanted or forced sex that meets the legal definition of rape. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 60 percent of rapes go unreported.
“I didn’t seek to prosecute the person who raped me,” the sophomore said, as she looked to the floor. “The idea of [testifying] scared me. I just wanted to be done with it.”
But it wasn’t that easy, and she soon sought short-term counseling services from the center.
Frank said it takes a great deal of courage for students to face issues troubling them that, when faced, can eventually lead to learning and wisdom.
“Mental illness is not always a result of genetics. It can also sprout from current environmental stressors and trauma,” said Hanowitz, who has been practicing psychology for more than 10 years.
Stressors can result from sexual abuse or assault, domestic violence, divorce or even financial instability.
Thankfully, there are avenues of relief.
MTV Web site halfofus.com offers an outlet for young adults to talk about the unspoken. On the site, Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy and Mary J. Blige share their stories of how ignored emotional stress in their lives led to depression.
“The biggest thing for me was to understand why I felt [depressed],” Humphreys said, recalling his own encounter with feeling low.
“The ratio of females to males that utilize the counseling services at Temple is roughly 2-1,” said John DiMino, director of Tuttleman Counseling Services. “This may be because women are generally more tuned into their emotional life and, therefore, more likely to ask for help.”
To test DiMino’s hypothesis, two students, whose parents are now divorced – one male and one female – were interviewed.
Ashley Chappell, a sophomore nursing major, sought the help of a psychiatrist after her parents finalized their divorce.
The male student, Preston Casper, did not.
“My parents’ divorce is something I just didn’t feel the need to talk about,” Casper said.
Casper, a sophomore kinesiology major and former football player, found the best therapy for him was sports.
“People have to deal with their emotional stress by venting, exploring its origin, getting social support or getting help in other ways, professional or otherwise,” Frank said.
Quentin Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.