Heed your health

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Yesterday afternoon, freshmen across campus awoke from their first big-time college night out with their first big-time college hangover, validating a truth they long have suspected: Health in college is like chastity in the Playboy Mansion.

The rambunctious and youthful “college experience” is stringently defined and firmly embedded in our culture, so poor health is often excused as just a part of the college lifestyle, like procrastination and voting for Democrats.

To address this, the University holds seminars and information sessions at orientation about conventional ways to stay healthy in college, such as eating right, sleeping normal hours and moderating alcohol consumption. The problem is that when students realize they will not eat, sleep or drink normally, they usually give up on health altogether and suffer the consequences.

Unfortunately, because poor mental health is so widespread and expected, it goes unnoticed, and becomes the greatest obstacle of success for new college students.

Freshmen and transfer students are especially susceptible to emotional health issues. Being thrust from the comfort and familiarity of a high school or hometown into an environment where having 20 friends is impressive can be traumatic for even the hardiest of souls. In the next few weeks, many new students will encounter a crossroad and decide whether to continue socializing outside their comfort zone and hope to eventually make friends or to settle for the less enjoyable — but more immediately appealing and comfortable — option of spending all their time either in the dorm room or class. On paper, the former is clearly more enticing, but the latter is more common and harmful.

Demotivation spreads and social apathy can lead to disregarding grades, money or anything else. A study conducted among freshmen at Hofstra
University found that 41 percent reported moderate to severe depression during their first year of college.

Fortunately, UT has tremendous mental and emotional health resources.

The UT Counseling and Mental Health Center is the most pertinent resource. Located on the fifth floor of the Student Services Building, the center has a full professional staff for the sole purpose of stewarding the mental health of UT students and staff. Students interested should call (512) 471-3515 to make an appointment with either a psychologist or psychiatrist. While most students only meet with a therapist for one session and probably don’t pursue formal therapy, they do receive a professional mental health evaluation.

Unfortunately the center is often heavily booked, and getting an appointment can take weeks.

To supplement or even possibly circumvent the need for professional attention, join a student organization, which addresses many emotional problems such as loneliness, boredom and a sense of futility that often lead to more severe problems.

Those who miss the camaraderie of a high school debate team should join a political organization. With a highly contested election three months away, the University Democrats and College Republicans will certainly have plenty to do.

Those who want a nonpartisan group can look to the Senate of College Councils or the Student Events Center.

And if you wrote for your high school newspaper or yearbook, The Daily Texan is now holding tryouts.

There is a lot to do this semester. An election, more budget cuts and a legislative session in a few months will require an energetic, interested and healthy student body to protect the interests of students and the University.