MEQUON, Wis.—Concordia University boasts views that would make anyone feel at peace. Nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, waves lap against the sand as a soft breeze blows. The sun is high in the sky.
It’s the perfect place for a respite for students like Adam Urban, as he sits on a bench looking at the scenery. The junior admits he rarely takes time to appreciate this view, despite it being at his fingertips.
“I forget to take walks,” he said. “I barely go on walks, even though I have this gorgeous view in front of me every single day.”
For Urban, it’s more than forgetting to go for a leisurely stroll on the beach. It’s forgetting to make time for himself entirely.
The straight-A student has a 22-credit course load on his plate and plans to apply to law schools.
His extra-curricular activity calendar is no picnic either.
“Student Government Association, I’m the chief student officer,” he said. “Philosophy Club president, I’m involved in Best Buddies, Law Association and a few others.”
Even sleep is a rare occurrence these days.
“There’s a lot of times I just want to make a nap, but other things call my attention,” he admitted. “I definitely neglect my own needs sometimes to get done what I need to get done.”
Urban studies four to six hours per day and said he often gives up leisure time to hit the books. It’s a constant state of stress for this aspiring lawyer and "Type A" over-achiever.
“I’m obviously always stressed,” he said. "I personally am not diagnosed with a mental health condition, but I think everyone struggles with mental health in some way.”
Concordia University’s Counseling Center director reported a 23% increase in counseling center requests this past academic year, compared to 2019-2020. So far this year, the request load has remained at that high number.
National data on mental health issues among college students has gone up as well. The CDC reports 63% of students 18 to 24 dealt with anxiety and depression, specifically due to the pandemic. Additionally, 25% of them reported having suicidal thoughts.
Universities like Concordia are being proactive, implementing new programs to make up for the increase in students needing mental health support. Concordia’s life-coach program is being piloted this school year, as a result.
“Some of our students are not really looking for a counselor,” said life coach coordinator Kari Metts. “They’re looking for someone who is a life coach.”
Urban’s life coach is Charnetta Gadling-Cole. She’s one of six life coaches this year, who have two to three students they mentor.
“We talk about balance, self care, taking time to do the things they enjoy and feeling okay in doing that,” she said, of her work with Urban. “I think the biggest issue is time management and I do think there’s been an increase in anxiety.”
The stigma of seeking mental health help is one leaders at Concordia hope is mitigated by this life coach program.
“With our life coach initiative, they may not have a diagnosis, but they need a cheerleader,” Gadling-Cole said. ”They need a coach and they need someone who will help them achieve their goals.”
Urban admitted he struggles with that stigma.
“I definitely have that stigma where I’m like, 'I don’t need help,”' he said. “I’m not as worthy as other people who truly need it.”
In his sessions with Gadling-Cole, Urban said he is warming to the idea of self-care.
“Finding time for yourself just to breathe is incredibly important,” he said.
He and Gadling-Cole meet weekly on an as-needed basis. The program caters to the needs of the students, some of which require regular meetings. Others simply ask for assistance as they see fit.
If the life coach program is successful this year, the goal is to secure more grant funding for the initiative to continue next year.