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Counseling center should focus on thesis stress

By Joe Lanoie

Section: Opinions

February 6, 2015

You will be seeing less of my column in The Hoot. No, it’s not due to resignation, nor editorial censorship. I will be here less due to the issue of prioritizing my time. I am a senior, and because I hate myself and want to contribute to academia, I am doing a thesis about American Catholicism and the Second Vatican Council, known as Vatican II. Hopefully, I will finish it and do well. It is at this point I am getting crushed for time and emotionally stressed. Over the year, the emails I have received from the school about working on my thesis mainly concerned academic citation and research assistance. Preventing plagiarism, improper citations and research needs are important, but there has not been a single email about mental and emotional issue help.

Neither Academic Services nor the Psychological Counseling Center (PCC) has a support group for thesis and senior essay students. The PCC helps those transitioning to Brandeis, coping with stress and loss, international students, meditation, social skills and sexual assault victims, all of which Academic Services advertises. Thesis and senior essay students undergo both academic and personal stresses while writing these works. Psychological groups concerning theses and senior essays should be created to cater to the mental needs of our senior community undergoing this monumental task.

Thesis students suffer emotional problems brought about by taking the task, including the constant comparison to other seniors. Every moment adds stress and anxiety to their lives. Some do not wish to burden their friends and family, me included, with the added stress to their lives regardless of origin, including my thesis. More likely than not, I bottle it up until I cry explosively, leading to homesickness, loneliness, depression and other issues. The PCC deals with all these issues, but not specifically when they are caused by theses. The only mental assistance the PCC has is in this realm is individual: one-on-one therapy. Individual visits help a lot, but it still only makes me focus on myself and my insecurities. With anxiety, I compare myself to the ideal that I hold in my heart and see in others. This leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of despair and sloth, following the path of insecure sadness.

By sponsoring a thesis student support group, the university would let seniors collaborate and know they are not alone in this struggle. It could happen in the PCC and would be open to all majors. Meeting biweekly, it would let those undergoing the thesis or senior essay talk about personal insecurities. Dealing with a missed deadline is mental torture, but seeing another miss a deadline allows comforting another with their own experience and elicits feelings of relief.

Having an arena in which to rant to others about the emotional roller coasters without fear of burden or disclosing would be beneficial. What is said in that room stays there. Peer discussion lets the person know they are not alone. Personally, I feel so alone in this. I missed a deadline and everyone else is ahead of me. I’m behind and lost. Everyone else has it together and is moving full steam ahead. My advisor can only do so much to quell my academic fears, but my emotional fears run 24/7. Attending a support group run by the PCC would show me that everything I said applies to others as well, but actually make me feel it. There is a difference between knowing and feeling. I know that the Earth changes between seasons, but I only feel it on a nice spring day with snow melting. Senior thesis students need emotional help, and this would provide it. For a university that claims it to be run on the merits of social justice, they seem to ignore this.

Forming a PCC-sponsored therapy group for thesis and senior essay writers would show that the school cares about the experiences seniors feel and face. Theses are the constant babies of our senior year lives; when we are focused on them, we feel as though our efforts are not enough. Every moment spent away from them shames oneself into thinking on them. Having other classes, doing work for them becomes guilt-filled as it is a moment I am not working on the thesis. As the weeks to come pass, I know I’ll get more and more of the thesis done, but a discussion with others going through the same emotions I am would be beneficial. Emotional support is something that is lacking on campus, even among friends. So to quote Richard Nixon, let me make this perfectly clear to my friends, allies and acquaintances: If you see me on campus, give me a hug. For the rest of the semester, I’ll need it. I’m petrified.

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