Safety concerns, anxiety issues brought up in counseling center visits

The number of patients seen by the campus counseling center rose 14 percent in January compared to the previous year.

Although staff cannot say for certain the numbers are a reflection of students coming in with stress, anxiety or fear about criminal and dangerous activities taking place at Central Michigan University and in the community in recent months, it is a definite possibility.

Director Ross Rapaport said the CMU Counseling Center does not have specific data to connect the uptick in patients to the unsettling happenings, but it has been a very busy January and February.

“It’s very hard to make specific causal statements as to why that’s happening,” Rapaport said.

In January, the counseling center had 187 patients compared to 164 in January 2012.

But, Rapaport said, this year there were two more days in January the counseling center was open compared to 2012.

However, January was also when campus was shaken by the Jan. 16 abduction of a female student outside the Student Activity Center. She was sexually assaulted but later escaped her attacker.

Counselors have noted patients voicing fears stemming from recent criminal activities on campus and in the community.

The counseling center's Sharon Tilmann said some students are upset by consciously being aware another stressor has been added to their life.

Students are anxious and stressed to begin with, Tilmann said, and then to add-on top of that a sense they have to be more cautious causes more issues.

“One student mentioned being stressed because the things they used to do without a second thought, they now have to be aware of and change their schedule,” Tilmann said. “They worry about going to the SAC alone or going to the library after dark. Any change in a routine can stress any of us like that.”

Rapaport said he believes it is most common for a student to come in for a visit for a separate reason, and then the topic of campus safety and related worries comes up as a secondary issue students would like to discuss.

It is also possible if a student has survived a similar experience, that might bring them into the counseling center as well, Rapaport said.

“If a student is really upset or really frightened, maybe this is (bringing) back old feelings, and it’s interfering with their sleep, school work, relationships with other people, or they’re just stressed and very anxious about it, it would certainly make sense to come in and sort that out with a counselor here to determine an appropriate course of action,” Rapaport said.

The counseling center is located in Foust 102 and is open from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday. Students can stop in or call to schedule an appointment.

“Sometimes there is a stigma in seeking help for many reasons, and it takes a lot of strength and courage to get help when we need it,” Rapaport said. “It’s not a sign of weakness, even though we live in a culture that sometimes suggests that.”