I Have a Problem, Now What?


It is pretty likely that sometime during your first semester or first year at school you will come down with a cold, flu, anxiety problem, stress, slip on a wet sidewalk, have a sleep problem or a headache, or any number of things that happen in the course of day to day life. What do you do?

First, you need to decide is the problem something for which you need professional help or is it something you can take care of yourself. You’ve no doubt already experienced bumps and bruises or had a cold. Did you go to the doctor every time you bruised your elbow? Probably not.

First thing to consider is what would you (or your parent/family) do with a similar problem if you were back home? If it is a simple and mild problem, you can probably handle it – a bump, scrape, small cut can probably be managed with some water and a Band-Aid. If you are not sure, calling a parent, trusted family member or friend is also an option. If you are living in a campus residence hall, you might check with an RA. They usually have some experience dealing with simple problems.

If you have a mild cold, headache or stomach ache and have experienced similar things before, it is probably fine to give it a bit of time to see if it gets worse or is causing you trouble. If the pain is really bad, the problem seems unusual (not something you’ve typically experienced), it is getting worse or is really interfering with your functioning, get it checked out at the health service.

Same thing with an emotional problem. If you are feeling sad, anxious, confused or troubled in some way that is not typical for you, make an appointment or find out if your school counseling center has walk-in hours and get it checked out.

When you need them, it will be important to know where the health and counseling services are and when they are open. Also it might be useful for you to know your past medical history and what kind of medical insurance you have (although most school health and counseling services are free for students). Many health and counseling services also have a call-in line where you can call and someone will discuss your situation and what might make sense to do.

A good rule of thumb: if you are unsure whether you should go, you should probably go to the health center or counseling services. Err on the side of caution!

If you have a serious injury, feel really sick or really emotionally troubled, get help right away – go right to health or counseling and if you don’t think you can get there for some reason or it is after regular hours call the campus emergency number right away. (Helpful hint: load the phone number for health and counseling services and the campus emergency numbers into your phone contacts when you first get to campus).

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