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Saturday, September 30, 2023

UF sees 60 percent increase in students seeking counseling

Adiel Benitz knows what it’s like to be stressed.

The 18-year-old architecture freshman took four Advanced Placement classes in high school, ran both track and cross country and worked part time as a waiter. Yet, compared to his first three weeks in college, that was a piece of cake.

“In high school, one or two nights a semester I would stay up late,” he said. “The extremes in high school become the norm.”

Benitz has already joined students across the country in being anxious. Increases in the amounts of students seeking counseling have been reported at colleges recently, and UF is no exception.

The UF Counseling and Wellness Center has seen nearly a 60 percent increase in the amount of students coming in for help than they did at this point last year, director Sherry Benton said.

“There is a large difference,” she said. “There is a very big increase in students who report a history of abuse; nightmares and flashbacks; and trauma symptoms.”

Benton partially attributed the increase to media coverage of current events such as shootings, natural disasters and the Pennsylvania State University sex abuse case.

“The history stirs up feelings and triggers more symptoms,” she said. “New trauma stirs up old trauma.”

UF’s counselors understand stress doesn’t always come from trauma. Benton recommended any student feeling stressed visit the center to help them cope. Appointments can normally be made by phone, but students who feel like they are in a crisis can simply come in and see an on-call counselor, she said.

Counseling can help students manage the anxiety that often accompanies the start of classes. That’s a feeling architecture freshman Katie Fisher has experienced.

“I had a freak-out moment on the first day,” the 18-year-old said.

Fisher has managed to keep her job at Outback Steakhouse, but she said she’s been forced to cut her work schedule from about five nights a week to one or two.

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To keep stress levels down, Benton said students should exercise four to five days a week. Meditation and taking walks can also help.

“Most people have things to do to relieve stress, but when they get really busy, they tell themselves, ‘I don’t have time. I don’t have time. I don’t have time,’” she said. “The reality is, if they did do those activities, their study time would be productive, their memory more concentrated and they would learn more material more quickly.”

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