Between classes and extracurricular activities, self-care isn’t always an issue at the forefront of college students’ lives.
Leah Murphy, a psychologist and counselor at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, is the adviser for Ithaca College Active Minds, the on-campus club chapter of the national organization that seeks to educate all people about the seriousness of mental health issues. Murphy works in the clinical psychology department and is an expert on college students’ mental health.
Active Minds held a self-care event Sept. 25 at which Josh Swiller, a hospice social worker in Brooklyn, New York, spoke on behalf of Murphy, who could not attend. As the adviser for the club, Murphy helped set up this event and was able to comment on the topic after the presentation.
Contributing Writer Angela Weldon sat down with Murphy to discuss college students’ mental health, her position at the college and what students should know about self-care.
Angela Weldon: What is unique about college students’ mental health?
Leah Murphy: College mental health has many unique challenges. The student population is one of profound diversity in culture, race, sexual orientation, and age, and also in their own psychological concerns, and their readiness to work with them. At the same time, the students are transitioning from childhood to adulthood. This isn’t always easy. And sometimes we feel like we should have it all figured out yesterday. Learning self-care during this time of transition and growth can be a tremendous benefit throughout our whole lives.
AW: What about student mental health does your position allow you to see that others may not?
LM: First, as a psychologist here at CAPS, my job allows me to see the resiliency that students have in the face of adversity. They are finding resources to cope and overcome in remarkable ways. It also allows me to see that they are often alone in this journey, and it doesn’t have to be this way.
AW: What makes this relevant to the entire student body?
LM: There is individual mental health, and there is collective mental health. Both are intertwined to advocate for, and sometimes against, one another. The more aware we are, the more we can break the stigma, and take off our masks as a collective, we can really see the individual’s health much clearer.
AW: What role do faculty play in student mental health?
LM: This is a big question, and I’m wondering about asking a faculty member where they see themselves fit in student mental health. I hope there is a desire to cultivate a community of health among organizations, faculty and staff, and what this means may vary depending on whom you ask.
AW: What are your top five tips for self-care?
LM: Take a breath, be kind, cultivate wonder, cultivate gratitude and have a sense of humor.
AW: If listeners were to take one important thing from Swiller’s presentation, what would you like that to be?
LM: That they’re all doing great. They really are. Success and health and happiness don’t have to be delayed until after mid-terms or after graduation or after you get a relationship. They’re all here right now. You’ve already succeeded! Today is the best day of your life.