Portland Stress University

College students often experience high levels of stress which, for many students, can be new and overwhelming. Stress is especially high during final exams. Portland State’s finals week begins on June 8.

Seeking counseling and support, especially in person, can carry stigma, so many people shy away from soliciting outside resources.

Online support

A new website called 7 Cups of Tea has been developed to provide emotional support for college students in the comfort of their own space.

7 Cups of Tea founder and psychologist Glen Moriarty said he thinks students today are under more stress than previous generations.

“Stressors can pile up and really start to take a toll on you,” Moriarty said. “I think [students] need a safe place to just vent. A place where they can share what is on their mind and be listened to by another non-judgmental, caring and compassionate college student.”

The web service, which gets its name from a Chinese poem that describes different levels of healing, anonymously connects users looking for support with listeners who have undergone Active Listening training.

The website also features group support chats and forums and self-help guides on several subjects, including college life, test anxiety, breakups, loneliness, parenting and managing emotions, among others.

A college student identified as Lindsey responded to the web service by saying, “Since becoming a member…my life has drastically changed…24 hours a day, seven days a week, there is someone who will listen to my story, or support me as I head off to take a test.”

Moriarty said the 7 Cups platform has many mental health professionals, but most are not licensed professionals. “They are instead trained active listeners from all walks of life,” Moriarty said. “The vast majority of our listeners are students that have gone through our training process.”

The training process for 7 Cups listeners involves instructional videos and written training, followed by tests, practices sessions and member feedback.

“The majority of listeners on 7 Cups have been helped by the service, so they care deeply for others and want to give back,” he added.

Moriarty said 7 Cups’ goal is to help 7 million people in 2015.

“At any given time, 30 percent of the people on the planet are struggling,” Moriarty said. “They often feel like they are all alone and don’t have anyone to talk to. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

On-campus counseling and support

PSU’s Student Health and Counseling Center provides on-campus mental health and counseling resources for students, including daily walk-in hours. Students can meet individually with counselors or participate in group sessions.

Dr. Marcy Hunt, licensed psychologist and PSU’s Director of Counseling Services echoed Moriarty’s concerns about increased college level stress.

“National survey data supports this with more and more students reporting that they feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and more stressed than ever before,” she said.

Hunt said stress levels are high due to a number of factors, including increasing academic demands, new environments and responsibilities, financial stress, changes in family and social relationships, and 24/7 interface with technology.

Hunt said there are different types of stress and that some stress is actually beneficial. “[I]t is important to remember that not all stress is ‘bad,’” she said. “Some stress is beneficial and motivating, helping us to focus and perform at our best. At SHAC, we help students learn ways to cultivate the ‘good’ stress and better manage the ‘bad’ stress.”

Last fall, SHAC launched its Mind Spa, located on the third floor of the University Center Building. The space is meant to create a peaceful and relaxing environment for students looking for solace from their busy schedules.

Students can access a full body massage chair, 10,000 lux light therapy alcove, guided mediation and biofeedback software that teaches students how to maximize their breath management in response to stress.

Hunt said many students access SHAC’s counseling and Mind Spa services.

“We typically see between 10–15 students every day during walk-in hours,” she said. “Many of those students are seeking additional mental health services at SHAC or in the greater Portland community.”

She added that Mind Spa appointments are typically filled for the entire term.

“However, there is still a significant stigma around seeking help, so we know there are students who could benefit from mental health support who have not walked through our doors,” Hunt said.

She said she sees online support resources as one of many tools students can employ to help manage stressors.

“We know support is instrumental in the effective management and recovery from mental health-related concerns, and we know our students are virtually connected 24/7,” Hunt said. “I do think that face-to-face support is an important adjunct to online resources, so [I] would encourage students to supplement their online community support with a visit to SHAC to meet with a counselor or visit the Mind Spa.”

More information available at 7cupsoftea.com and pdx.edu/shac.