App designed for student health

The Student Wellness Center, located in Serra Hall, is open to students who wish to find new ways to stay healthy at school. Cyrus Lange/The USD Vista

Many college students lose sleep as a result of high stress levels, but pulling an all-nighter is not something to cheer about.

Symptoms of stress are natural and perhaps expected from a college student. The difference between students, however,  is the way they handle their stress. Some students are capable of coping with mild to moderate stress without negative effects on their levels of effectiveness and productivity in their daily lives. Others, who contain high levels of stress, seek out ways to balance the life of a busy college student.

A 2016 study published in the Biological Psychiatry Journal has shown that mindful meditation has positive effects on individuals.

Director of the Counseling Center Dr. Steve Sprinkle said meditation is an excellent way to cope with stress.

“I find that a 10 or 15 minute meditation can really calm the mind and provide relief,” Sprinkle said.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental illness condition will affect one out of every five young adults. Mental illness in young people has been a growing issue and can lead to life-altering effects such as depression and suicide.

On USD’s campus there are many available resources for students to take advantage of when stress is negatively affecting their productivity.

Stress and Anxiety Workshops are available and geared toward managing stress. They are held at the Wellness Center on Tuesday and Thursday and open only to USD students. There are free relaxation exercises on the Counseling Center webpage that students can download for free. The Student Wellness Center provides about six mindfulness exercises that have the potential to reduce stress and help with anxiety and depression.

Calm.com, Inc., a company that created an app with the main focus to make the world happier and healthier through mediation, has also realized the growing concern of mental health in college students and recently launched, their project Calm College.

This fall, Calm College has exclusive partnerships with several colleges in which the students, faculty, and staff have access to the app and its features for free.

Although USD is not partnered with Calm College, Sprinkle looked at the Calm application and pointed out how he thinks the app is a positive component to a college student with the exception of its cost.

“It looks great, but you have to pay for it,” Sprinkle said. “If you have the money and want to do it this is a really slick, nicely designed app which I would recommend to anybody.”

The cost is still a factor for students who do not attend a partnered Calm Campus, although the price has been discounted for all college students. College student pricing comes out to $3.74 per month.

Sprinkle discussed what it could mean for USD if it wanted to be a Calm College campus.

“What we would want to know, as far as student wellness, is how much does it cost and do we want to spend the money on signing up with this and offering this service, but that may take away from counseling hours or some other service being provided to students,” Sprinkle said. “We offer a lot of what they do free but we don’t have something set up where you can get a daily reminder.”

The app tracks progress, which Sprinkle finds is a benefit to mental health and by tracking progress the Calm app improves on the resources that USD offers.

Junior Molly McGarvey finds that an app such as this one has the potential to be a better for the average college student as a result  of the accessibility.

“I think because the app is on your phone and more easily accessible than going to the Wellness Center, it would be worth trying to change some of the Wellness Center’s offered resources in order to provide something that I am more likely to use on a day-to-day basis,” McGarvey said.

A busy college student may not be willing to pay the money otherwise.

Junior Olivia Greenwood thinks that paying for something that is supposed to help with stress would be even more stressful. However, having the service provided might persuade her to use it.

“If it was free I would try and if I found it beneficial I would try to incorporate it more,” Greenwood said.

According to the Head of Calm College project, Nate Macanian, although Calm.com is no longer accepting applications this year for the app to be a free resource on more college campuses, they are aiming to build more long-term partnerships with colleges across the world.

This partnership also includes a new College Collection, which is specifically made for a college lifestyle.

Macanian explained the purpose of the College Collection.

“The College Collection was our attempt to really pinpoint the college student specifically and use languages and examples that really resonate with them,” said Macanian.

Macanian also explained how the Calm app helps eliminate the three factors that prohibit students from seeking help for their mental health — cost, time, and stigma.

“Calm Campuses provide Calm as a free resource so students don’t have to worry about the financial burden,” Macanian said. “Students don’t have to go in and schedule a meeting with an advisor or counselor and potentially wait weeks for an appointment like you do at many schools. You are accessing the app literally at any time at any place from the comfort of your own pocket. And finally, the stigma, which is a huge element of mental health: by using Calm, you are working with your stress in a way that does not require you to reach out and speak to anybody else.”

Macanian further explained that he does not think people should refrain from seeking help if needed. However, having the app allows another option of help for individuals who want help but are too afraid to inform people of the state of their mental health.

The app requires the effort of the user in order to see progress. The meditation sessions range from two to 20 minute sessions, which does take time out of an individual’s day.

Greenwood was unsure if she would have the time to use the app.

“I feel that it would be beneficial if you put the time in but the time I have is extremely limited.”

Macanian said that small increments of meditation every day will make an individual more productive and better at time management.

“Ten minutes of meditating is an investment for the 23 hours and 50 minutes of the rest of your day,” Macanian said.

Mental health of youth is an issue that is concerning as the numbers of students suffering from stress and anxiety continue to increase. There are different options if someone is looking for ways to handle the stress and anxiety that may come with a college life.

The Student Wellness Center provides resources to students now and the Calm app is one option available to students. If desired by the USD community, USD may one day become an exclusive Calm College partner.

Lilyana Espinoza | News Editor | The USD Vista

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