FLUX talks about anxiety

Meredith Rice listens as people at her table explain how they think work and school environments could better combat anxiety Tuesday, April 16, 2019, during a Flux-hosted anxiety event in the Erb Memorial Union at University of Oregon. Some people, though meaning well, use encouraging language that comes off as dismissive, Bryan Wolf said. “They say, ‘you’ll get through it,’ and that always makes it worse,” he said. “It’s minimalizing.”

By Taylor Romano

On Tuesday, April 16, over 40 students from the University of Oregon (UO) and locals from the Eugene/Springfield area gathered at the Erb Memorial Union (EMU) to start a conversation about anxiety. Emma Wolf, the managing editor for FLUX Magazine, moderated the discussion intended to normalize talking about anxiety and mental health.

“Anxiety is wholly impossible to describe but necessary to talk about,” Wolf said.

Flux editors Des Alvarez, left, and Emma Wolf stand for a photo Wednesday, April 16, 2019, while the magazine hosts a discussion about anxiety in the Erb Memorial Union at University of Oregon.

FLUX reporters spent almost the last four months looking for stories about belonging. What they found, instead, was a group of people that felt isolated. People all-around the world struggle with mental health, but not many of them are seeking help–especially college students.

According to a 2018 study by the American College Health Association, over 60 percent of college students felt overwhelmed with anxiety in the past year, and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that around 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. The ADAA also reported that only 36.9 percent of people affected by anxiety actually seek help.

“Whether you know it you are surrounded by people who have dealt with or are currently dealing with the ramifications of anxiety. It’s so much more prevalent than people understand, and that’s why events like these matter,” Wolf said, regarding FLUX’s interest in hosting an event like this.

Sean Gley, left, of Springfield, explains how he has come to think more compassionately about people with anxiety as Maureen and Bryan Wolf look on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, during a Flux-hosted discussion in the Erb Memorial Union at University of Oregon.

Everyone was encouraged to discuss with the people around them about their experience with anxiety, following prompts given by Wolf. Many of the questions Wolf asked surrounded what causes people anxiety, what anxiety feels like and how they cope with it, and whether their coping mechanism was healthy.

“It’s like I’m playing a chess match in my brain,” said Jeff Ehren, a graduate student at UO. He further described his anxiety as a visceral reaction similar to being in the emergency room and said he would even hide in the bathroom at work until his boss left.

John Saylor, a college student, said that he separates long-term anxiety from short-term,

“Yeah this sucks right now, but it will get better soon,” he said. “You can do anything for a minute and then you can do anything for another minute.”

Emma Bloomfield discusses coping mechanisms with people at her table Tuesday, April 16, 2019, during a Flux-hosted discussion in the Erb Memorial Union at University of Oregon.

On the other hand, Sue Saylor–John’s mother–claimed that she’s never had an exact coping mechanism.

“It’s been trial and error for me,”  she said. “Once I’ve gone through something without dying, I can do it again.”

For two hours, conversations like these continued all-around the room. Some people were friends, some were strangers, but everyone contributed to the discussion about their anxiety and how they manage it.  They gave each other ideas on where to find help, different coping mechanisms, and an overall sense of solidarity and community where they originally may have had none.

One college student, Meredith Rice, said she was interested in the on-campus resources at UO yet didn’t know where the counseling center is or their phone number. And while the lack of information about how to get help is its own problem, some people next to Rice told her where to go and who to call.

Mary English, left, Laura Grigorieff and Meredith Rice sketch out their feelings about anxiety at a Flux-hosted discussion Tuesday, April 16, 2019, in the Erb Memorial Union at University of Oregon.

FLUX’s two-hour discussion about anxiety aimed to help people with their anxiety by giving them a space to share their thoughts, proving that a more open dialogue about anxiety and mental health is needed in our community.

Desiree Bergstrom, another UO student said, “[Anxiety] is not visual, so it’s not given enough weight.”

This lack of emphasis on student mental health was an idea reiterated by several participants, which is exactly why FLUX wanted to start the conversation.