Feeling Lonely in College

It’s Sunday, September 10, which means it’s also World Suicide Prevention Day.  Suicide prevention and intervention are issues about which I feel particularly passionate, and I’ve spent the large majority of my 15 years as a mental health professional learning, teaching, and working with others around the issue in some way.

Over the years I’ve realized that one of the main reasons that I’m so engaged in the topic of suicide is due to how stigmatized it is.  Issues in our society that are stigmatized – the ones about which we are told feel shame, embarrassment, and guilt – only cause those issues to become more buried and thus difficult to treat.  Most people don’t know that passing thoughts of suicide occur for most people at some point in their lives, and so when we do have those thoughts we feel “crazy” and we hide.  I’ve had countless conversations with students whom I’m meeting for their first appointment, where they tentatively acknowledge their recent thoughts of suicide.  After they see that I don’t judge them, and that we can continue to conversation about what causes these thoughts, their relief is palpable.  Feeling heard – really heard – and then not being judged, is powerful.  It’s the experience that many have when they come to the counseling center, but certainly mental health professionals aren’t the only ones who can empathically listen.

Feeling lonely in college (and in life) is really normal.  Sometimes we feel alone because we haven’t yet found our “tribe”, and aren’t sure we fit in.  Sometimes it’s because we’ve had a bad day, and even though we’re physically surrounded with a few good friends, our emotions cause us to feel like we are isolated.  Just transitioning to college (or back home, or after returning from study abroad, etc.) can temporarily exacerbate our feelings of loneliness.  Recognizing our feelings for what they are, and the context around them, can go a long way towards tolerating those feelings.  This is the therapy we can give ourselves:  rather than trying to avoid that discomfort with disconnection (food, drink, or social media for example), we can practice noticing our emotions and not judging ourselves for having them.  Letting those feelings be there without shaming ourselves in a significant step towards letting them move through us and not getting “stuck.”  If you’d like to learn more about this practice of noticing, mosey on over to our Mindfulness pages for a great TedTalk as well as some guided imagery audio files.

No matter what kinds of feelings you’re having, if they are causing you to behave in ways that are concerning to you or those around you, or if they are getting in the way of your day-to-day functioning, give us a call (336.758.5273) or come by 117 Reynolda Hall.  We’ll be here to listen and help.

 

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