College students face many new challenges that can impact mental health. Making new friends, managing academics and planning for the future may trigger feelings of anxiety, stress, loneliness or depression.

Ralph Dodd, PsyD, regional director of collegiate counseling for the Hartford area and a long-time clinician with the Institute of Living, part of the Behavioral Health Network, oversees counseling provided at the universities partnered with Hartford HealthCare through CampusCare, including Quinnipiac University and Trinity College.

This help is critical, as colleges and universities across the country face a significant increase in the number of students seeking mental health care.

“It is really important to be proactive in your health and wellness and schedule into your day when you are going to exercise or do enjoyable activities,” Dr. Dodd said.

> Connect with Hartford HealthCare’s CampusCare

Setting myself up for success

For college students, some steps to success include:

  1. Strengthen your support network. Find ways to connect with those around you. Some ideas include tutoring, joining student activities or athletics and staying connected to family and friends.
  2. Practice safety. Understand your limitations around substances and the risks associated with substance use. Educate yourself about safe sex practices. Be an advocate for yourself in the decisions you make. “Follow your instincts, if it doesn’t feel right, back away from the situation,” said Mary Pellitteri, LADC with Quinnipiac University.
  3. Form healthy habits. “One of the key aspects of mental health wellness is nutrition, sleep hygiene and leisure,” Dr. Dodd said.
  4. Manage your time. Keep track of your classes and deadlines. Be aware of procrastination. Create a schedule that includes time for academic work, physical activity, socializing and rest.
  5. Tap campus resources. Reach out to school offices, like the counseling center, office of spiritual and religious life, student groups and activities, and the Dean of Students Office. “The most important thing is to be proactive and advocate for yourself. These resources are here for you,” said Maryam Redman, LCSW with Trinity College.

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Hartford HealthCare CampusCare professionals oversee Student Health Services on each campus and help coordinate additional services within Hartford HealthCare when needed. In addition to behavioral health, services include general health, sports health, neurology, substance use disorder treatment and musculoskeletal care.

“It is very important that students have access to these types of health services because they each have different needs and we need to provide the appropriate resources,” Dr. Dodd said.