This is an exciting time in your life. Here at RIT, you will take the first steps to becoming an adult. It is here that you can start molding the clay of your dreams and ambitions into tangible realities, meet new people who can open your eyes to new views and generally start spreading your wings to make the pilgrimage into your future.

You are likely filled with conflicting emotions about finally reaching college like moving away from your home, family and friends. Among the joy and jubilation that has flooded your veins since you first tore open the envelope confirming your acceptance, there may be tinges of dread and anxiety concerning your new home.

It's important to remember that when those feelings hit, you are not alone, no matter how much it may feel that way. According to a report by the American Psychological Association, 41.6% of college students who have reached out to a counselor are suffering from an anxiety condition. This is followed by depression in 36.4% and relationship problems in 35.8%. RIT, of course, is no exception to this rule. A report from RIT's own Counseling Center for the 2013-2014 school year puts the number at 58.8% of student counseling subjects — 600 students — who suffer from anxiety related issues, while 52.4% suffer from depression.

Knowing this, the RIT Counseling Center provides a variety of services aimed at reducing the ostracizing nature of anxiety and other mental conditions. Perhaps the most useful resources are the group counseling sessions offered for a variety of different afflictions that students can suffer from. Group therapy offers the opportunity to sit with a therapist alongside other individuals dealing with the same issues and attempt to break down and deal with the root causes of mental conditions.

In many cases, simply talking with others in the same situation and not having to fight your battles on your own can have an enormous benefit on the recovery process. In fact, in regard to depression, a study at the University of Tromso's Psychology department found a total of 44% of people with depression who participated in group therapy showed notable improvements following the beginning of therapy, and 30% experienced full recovery. In a three-month follow up, these numbers increased to 57% and 40%, respectively.

Group therapy is offered with a rigid schedule based around different health issues. Some examples include include social anxiety workshops, which help students build social skills and shake their fears of social situations, depression workshops and therapy sessions meant to help students develop healthy sleeping patterns, among many other issues. Simply reaching out to the Counseling Center and finding the group that best fits you can be an enormous step in improving your mental health.

While group therapy is an extremely valuable option, there are many lingering stigmas about therapy that may keep students from reaching out to the Counseling Center, one of which is the idea that to go into counseling is something only a weak person would do. But the fact of the matter is making strides toward improving yourself is never a cowardly move. In fact, it is brave to address that you have a problem and need help.

Remember, counseling is never about social standing or proving a point, but rather getting to the root of your problems and improving your quality of life. Also common is the fear that others will find out that you're involved in counseling or that things said in the counseling group will be made public. To ease that worry, the Counseling Center assures that all counseling sessions at RIT, whether individual or group, are completely confidential. What happens within the walls of the Counseling Center stays within the walls of the Counseling Center.

Group sessions are an immensely valuable resource that can help to resolve many issues a college student faces, but one of the most common problems they face is stress management. While stress is a natural part of life that you will have to deal with, being unable to manage it can lead to breakdowns, anxiety disorders and generally burning yourself out. As an alternative to group therapy, the Counseling Center offers a stress management series aimed at learning healthy coping techniques, including a session held on Thursdays at 12:20 on Mindfulness Meditation. This course focuses on learning breathing techniques and meditation methods, which can help to relieve stress and anxiety.

While this may seem like a silly practice, a 2014 study by the National Society for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) entitled "Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity" found that mindfulness meditation can have a remarkably positive effect on its participants. The study showed that participants in either mindfulness education or meditation experienced a notable reduction in their Hamilton Anxiety Scale scores, as well as a higher amount of positive self-statements.  

After unpacking your bags and waving goodbye to your family, there will likely be that inevitable moment of clarity: that this is real, and you are now more or less on your own. The burden can be a massive weight on your shoulders, and with classes and the inevitable need to belong , the stress can sometimes seem like too much.

You must always keep in mind that you do not have to live with your anxiety or depression. It is not a battle you have to fight on your own. At RIT, there are a litany of resources available to make your college experience the best it can be. So when those feelings of hopelessness, fear and desperation begin to bubble up, don't delay. Make that phone call, go to a meeting and talk to someone. It can be the one small act that changes your entire college experience.