College of DuPage students sharing their thoughts on mental health

College students are dealing with mental health issues in numbers not seen before.

According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety and depression among college students has significantly increased. This is especially true since the start of the pandemic, with up to 44% reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety.

In a recent College of DuPage survey of students regarding mental health, nearly 80% of respondents indicated that they had experienced anxiety in the previous 12 months. From this group, more than 50% cited issues with family.

Left untreated, depression and anxiety could lead to dire consequences. Unfortunately, many students do not seek help.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) tirelessly fights the misconceptions and stereotypes about mental health conditions that can make some feel ashamed about how they are feeling.

We need to encourage our students to address their mental health concerns. They need to understand there is no stigma associated with how they feel and that asking for help is a positive first step forward.

On World Mental Health Day several weeks ago, the college debuted "Lifelines," a documentary on mental health produced by COD's Multimedia Services Department, which spent nine months diving deep into this subject.

COD students, mental health counselors Silvia Donatelli and Dennis Emano, Dean of Students Nathania Montes, Human Services Professor Jason Florin and external experts are featured in the documentary's five segments.

The results are thought-provoking, challenging and hopeful. You can learn more and view the documentary at

The college community also shared their insights on a Thoughts Wall that COD staff set up in the Student Services Center Atrium in conjunction with World Mental Health Day and the documentary's premiere.

Students, faculty, staff and visitors were encouraged to share supportive thoughts and answer such questions as "What does stigma mean to you?"

To address mental health concerns, the college uses multiple strategies to reach students and let them know where to seek help if they are feeling anxious or depressed.

The college's Counseling, Advising and Transfer Services Office continues to address the various needs of students, while the Dean of Students Office listens to their concerns. And, of course, many staff and faculty have assisted students in a variety of ways.

I am happy that a new student group, NAMI on Campus, held its first meeting the day after the documentary's premiere. The group's goal is to involve students in spreading awareness about mental health resources available on campus and in our local communities.

In addition, the COD Veterans Services Office had hosted an art exhibit, "Artfully Facing Trauma: The Internal/External Realities of Veterans with PTSD." The painted masks on display revealed what veterans' post-traumatic stress disorder looks like.

Veterans Services also partnered with Counseling, Advising and Transfer Services, COD Police and the Student Veteran Association for a recent event in conjunction with Suicide Awareness Month. The lunch included information on mental health resources on campus and in the community.

The challenges facing college students nationwide are many, and the pressure they put on themselves can be overwhelming. The first step toward understanding these pressures can be as simple as starting a conversation and listening in a nonjudgmental, supportive way.

Mental health matters. Supporting our students is critical to their success, and this effort includes faculty, staff, families and friends. By ensuring that students are addressing their mental health concerns, we help them become stronger so they can better prepare for the next stages of their lives.

• Brian Caputo is the president of the College of DuPage.

Dr. Brian Caputo Courtesy of College of DuPage
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