The fast-paced life of college students often leaves little time to concern oneself with health issues. Fortunately for Madison students, University Health Services exists to do just that. Whether it is stress, sexually transmitted diseases or the flu, the staff at UHS has seen it and treated it before. As the beginning of school approaches, UHS is busy getting the word out about issues that will undoubtedly touch a portion of the UW-Madison population.
While UW-Madison’s party rankings may cause high fives among students, for UHS this is further proof that the No. 1 health issue on campus is drinking.
The negative side effects of drinking range from long-term health issues like psoriasis to heightened sexual aggression among intoxicated people. Such acts have become common in the downtown Madison area.
According to a study done by the Madison Police Department in the downtown area between midnight and 3 a.m, the number of reported batteries, aggravated batteries, fights and disturbances are more than five times that of any other neighborhood. MPD attributes this in large part to drinking, as the time span encompasses bar time and many in the area are bar patrons.
A key to lowering this trend is to change the attitude of students, said Jonathan Zarov, communications manager at UHS. Having a drink with friends or a beer at a barbecue is not a serious health threat, but going out several nights a week with the sole intention of getting drunk is a threat, he says. At a school where more than 65 percent of the student body binge drinks, according to a UHS survey last year, Zarov said, changing social norms is difficult.
“[UHS] is trying to change this perception of us being a party school,” Zarov said. “Not that people don’t drink and have a good time, but that’s not the whole identity of who students are here.”
Admitting that students will, to some extent, drink regardless of advice given, Zarov recommends students drink a nonalcoholic beverage between alcoholic drinks. A few glasses of water interspersed throughout a night on the town can mean the difference between a stomach pump and a stomachache.
It may be hard to imagine any other health problems when you have one of those Sunday morning hangovers, but other issues do arise.
Depression affects throngs of college students nationwide. Rob Sepich, team manager at UHS, conducts outreach programs concerning depression around the university and in residence halls. He defines depression as two weeks of feeling markedly down on a daily basis. This definition is fallible by his own admission, but any UW-Madison student can receive free counseling at UHS, so Sepich recommends getting help as soon as students think they may be suffering from chronic depression.
For students looking to avoid depression, the best course of action is getting connected early. Something as simple as meeting a new friend is often all it takes to avoid depression.
“Reach out, get connected, meeting not only other people in your area, on your floor, roommates and stuff like that. Only taking advantage of a fraction of what the UW offers,” said Sepich. “Sometimes all it takes is to make one or two connections and friendships. And these don’t even have to be lasting friendships, just important enough to feel like you’re not alone.”
Also, friends are often the first people to notice a major change in attitude. Because of this, friends are often the ones who point out the depression.
Sepich recommends students make those important few bonds by taking a look at the 250-plus student groups on campus or or simply meeting neighbors.
Several colleges have reported high rates of meningococcal meningitis, a contagious disease. For incoming freshman, facing a year of cafeteria food is scary enough; the fear of catching meningitis may make the year seem unbearable.
Once the disease is contracted, it can attack by either infecting its host’s blood with a potentially lethal bacterium, as is the case with this strain, or the brain and spinal chord can be attacked. There are immunizations, but they do not protect against all of the meningitis strains. The immunizations do not stop the spread of the disease; even an immunized student can infect a friend.
UW-Madison has not seen a meningitis epidemic yet and there is no reason to believe that one is looming according to Zarov. If students are worried, UHS offers the immunization at its main office.
The list of health issues facing UW-Madison students is as long as it is diverse, and UHS is prepared to handle each and every student. It also offer free condoms, coupons for 20 percent off a bike helmet, and anonymous STD tests. If you are interested in any of its services, visit UHS at 1552 University Ave.