Take care of your mental and physical health

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Rachel Vogt, Sports Editor

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Mental and physical health are two things that can be strained during someone’s time in college. Georgetown University did a study regarding student health concerns for college students, and it included those that students reported as impacting their academics in the National College Health Assessment, which collects data from Georgetown students every other year. Some are less common than others, however they remain important issues that can have significant impact on students’ health and well-being.

Things on the list include stress, anxiety and depression, colds, flus and sore throats, Meningitis, common illnesses, alcohol and substance abuse through excessive intoxication or alcohol poisoning, difficulty sleeping, homesickness, roommate and relationship difficulties, sexual assault and relationship violence, sexual health, acute illnesses, and mumps. I will be highlighting a few of these mainly to educate and help prevent some of these things from affecting students both on and off campus.

Stress, anxiety, and depression are not uncommon among college students. Many changes experienced in college can be stressful, and it is important to recognize when these emotions begin to interfere with a student’s ability to function in day-to-day life. 30% of Georgetown students reported that stress affected their academic performance, according to their survey.

Meningitis is caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. An infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord usually causes this inflammation. There are several types of meningitis, the two most common types are viral and bacterial. Meningitis can be caused by a bacteria or virus. Bacterial and viral meningitis are both contagious and can be spread person-to-person through the sharing of throat or respiratory secretions (such as mucus or saliva). There are many different and simple ways to prevent transition, some of those include washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, using alcohol-based hand-sanitizers regularly, not sharing cups, utensils, chapstick, cosmetics, smoking materials (cigarettes, hookah, and vaping devices) or anything that comes in contact with the mouth, disinfecting surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs, computer screens, and cell phones, and avoiding kissing others who are sick. There is also a vaccination to help protect against most cases of bacterial meningitis.

Common illnesses that occur on college campuses include things such as Mono, MRSA, and the development of new allergies. Mono is a common illness that can leave anyone who suffers from it fatigued for months. The Epstein-Barr virus causes mono, it is one of the most common types of viruses, and it is a member of the herpes virus family. Mono is not generally a serious illness. Most people only tend to get it once because their body develops antibodies to defend against the virus. It can be spread through saliva exchange during kissing or sharing water bottles and other things that come in contact with the mouth. MRSA (or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a type of Staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics. MRSA is a skin infection that can be spread through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has Staph infection, coming in contact with items and surfaces that have Staph on them, poor hygiene, and openings on your skin such as cuts or scrapes. To prevent Staph infections, including MRSA, from spreading, it is recommended that students wash hands often, keep cuts and scrapes clean and cover them with bandages, avoiding contact with other people’s cuts or bandages, and not sharing personal items such as towels or razors. New allergies can develop simply from arriving on campus and being in different surroundings than someone is previously used to. In the Georgetown study, a total of 42.3% of students reported a problem with allergies.

Alcohol and substance use typically rises when people are kept in large groups and given newfound freedoms (making college the perfect place for these problems to arise). There are both short term and long term health problems associated with drug and alcohol abuse. Some of these short term health problems can include injuries, violence, risky behaviors and alcohol poisoning. Long term health problems can include psychiatric disorders, cardiovascular problems, liver diseases, and cancer. Understanding how the body processes alcohol, knowing the symptoms and what to do if someone has alcohol poisoning or drug overdose, and knowing how to prevent excessive alcohol intoxication or alcohol poisoning can help prevent the use of alcohol and other substances.

College is another place in which the rich human, personal, and spiritual values of sexuality are often explored, and questions are bound to arise. There are many different problems that could arise with sexual activity, including sexually transmitted infections and diseases. The difference between STI’s and STD’s is that STD’s result from damage caused by STI’s, but not all STI’s progress into STD’s. For example, about 90% of women infected with Human Papilloma Virus clear the infection within two years, however the remaining 10% of women develop a chronic infection, which is referred to as an STD. One in four college students have a sexually transmitted infection. Untreated STI’s can lead to serious health problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease. In addition, having an STI increases the risk of contracting HIV. Practicing safe sex is a good way to lower the chances of getting sexually transmitted infections, or passing one onto a partner. However, it is important to also remember that using safe sex practices is not 100% effective at preventing STI’s, and it is still important to get routine STI screenings. Knowing options about having sex lower the risk of passing on STI’s than others. For example, having anal sex gives a high risk of contracting an STI, as does vaginal sex for both partners (although the risk is greater for females). Both giving and receiving oral sex has the lowest risk of contracting an STI, although it is still very possible. Knowing the risks related to sexual activities and the likelihood of contracting or transmitting an STI. Another way to help prevent contracting an STI is by talking with partners before getting involved in any sexual activities. Discussing concerns, values, and STI prevention and maintaining open communication and respecting one another’s boundaries is another way to help prevent contraction of an STD or STI. Using a new condom each time someone has vaginal, anal, or oral sex is the best way to prevent STI’s. Because many STI’s are passed by skin-to-skin contact, therefore using a condom dramatically lowers the risk of contraction.
All of these things are important issues that have significant impact on students’ health and well-being, but awareness and knowledge of these things and the preventive actions that can be taken can also dramatically reduce these issues and other things that they may influence.

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