Loyola Phoenix

Special Issue: Health

Mental Health In The Media

Mental Health

Mental health is often inaccurately portrayed in the media, both negatively and positively. But misinformation can often lead to further stigmatization or misconceptions about treatment for mental illness.
Graphic by Julie Whitehair

Entertainment media can be used as a distraction from everyday life — a source of escape from school, work and other responsibilities that come with being a college student. But some media can be more damaging to mental health by featuring inaccurate or glamorized portrayals of mental illness.

One show that’s received such backlash is Netflix hit “13 Reasons Why,” whose second season is set to release this year. Based on the young adult novel “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher, the series depicts the aftereffects of teenager Hannah Baker’s suicide, telling her story through a set of cassette tapes she left behind for the people in her life. The series gained criticism for its portrayal of mental illness, and for graphically showing the suicide onscreen.

Dr. David deBoer, director of counseling at Loyola’s Wellness Center, said he didn’t watch the show, but read enough about it to be concerned.

“My sense about it was that it kind of sensationalized and also maybe even romanticized being suicidal in a way that concerned me,” deBoer said. “I also really didn’t like the premise of the show, which is that each episode is about the way someone else disappointed or failed the person who took their life [because] I felt it really blamed survivors of a suicide.”

In the 19 days after the show was released, internet searches regarding suicide increased by 19 percent, according to a study from JAMA Internal Medicine. The study also showed queries regarding how to commit suicide and suicide hotlines increased. But the series creator, Brian Yorkey, and the show’s actors have described “13 Reasons” as having created a dialogue and furthered awareness, and mental health experts were consulted to help make the portrayals accurate, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Yorkey told the LA Times he wouldn’t tell anyone they have to watch it, and that he respects everyone’s point of view, but that “I always believe talking about things is better than silence.”

Megan Armstrong, a 21-year-old junior psychology major at Loyola, said she thinks “13 Reasons Why” gives its primarily millennial audience a dangerous picture of suicide.

“I think it just romanticizes suicide, which isn’t a healthy thing for its targeted demographic [to see],” she said. “It just kind of made it seem like a revenge story.”

Ahead of the second season — and after Netflix commissioned a study showing about 75 percent of teen and young adult viewers found the show relatable — a message featuring the cast has been created to run before each season to warn about the sensitive nature of the show. The show also provides crisis resources to the online guide 13reasonswhy.info and has an after-show titled “Beyond the Reasons” to discuss the show’s themes including sexual assault and bullying.

Even with good intentions in mind, deBoer said popular culture can depict mental health and illness with misinformation. An example would be unrealistic portrayals of therapists, he said, which can stem from a fear of mental illness. Others are positive portrayals with an “a-ha breakthrough moment” that isn’t always true to life, according to deBoer.

“When there are shows or movies or TV shows about therapists, half the time [it] seems like the therapist is either sleeping with their patients or killing their patients or stalking their patients or doing things that any ethical therapist wouldn’t do,” deBoer said. “And I think that often speaks to people’s vulnerability around mental health and mental illness and people’s fear of mental health and wanting to make it something that’s out there, it’s outside of themselves.”

Despite the fear of mental illness, it’s not an abnormality — one in six adults lives with a mental illness in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health .

When filmmakers depict mental illnesses inaccurately, they can further perpetuate stigmas surrounding the topic and cause those with mental illness to be less likely to seek help, according to a The University of Melbourne study.

When done well, accurate portrayals of mental health conditions in entertainment media can help create relatable characters, show mental illness as “the medical condition it is, not a character flaw or moral failing” and teach viewers about treatment, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

One such portrayal is Russell Crowe’s performance as mathematical genius John Nash in 2001’s “A Beautiful Mind.” Nash lived with schizophrenia, a disorder often sensationalized for onscreen entertainment and confused with its close cousin, dissociative identity disorder. Horror films, such as “Psycho” (1960) and “Split” (2017), often cast people with these disorders as villains.

“A Beautiful Mind,” however, explores schizophrenia through a realistic and empathetic lens. It allows audiences to see life through Nash’s point of view, including his hallucinations and the effects his condition has on his daily life.

Richard Bowen, a professor of psychology at Loyola, said he found Crowe’s portrayal of a man dealing with schizophrenia compelling.

“[Nash’s] gradual deterioration is pretty accurate,” Bowen said. “I think [‘A Beautiful Mind’] does a better job than most [at showing the tragic effects of schizophrenia].”

He said a lesser movie would try to sensationalize the illness along the lines of Hannibal Lecter from “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991).

“People who make movies want to make money,” Bowen said. “They want things to be sensational, and very often mental illness is not sensational.”

“A Beautiful Mind” celebrates Nash’s accomplishments and shows his humanity underneath his severe illness. Other films, such as Pixar’s “Inside Out” (2015), tackle more relatable mental health dilemmas in creative ways.

The animated film takes viewers into the mind of 11-year-old Riley, who is dealing with her family’s recent relocation to San Francisco from Minnesota. Her five main emotions — fear, sadness, anger, disgust and joy — are represented through five characters of the same names. The film’s fun and clear presentation makes the complex emotional journey of an 11-year-old under stress accessible and easily digestible for audiences.

“Inside Out’s” message resonated with audiences young and old, but had a particularly strong impact in helping children express themselves. Jennifer Kasten, a special education consultant in Arizona and parent herself, thanked Pixar in a blog post for helping her children articulate what’s going on inside their own heads.

“In the car ride on the way home [from seeing “Inside Out”], I asked my daughter which one of the feelings she has the most often,” Kasten wrote. “She answered, ‘Most of the time, I am like Joy, but sometimes I am the red one, Anger.’ That led us into a fascinating conversation about what happens when she feels angry … I loved that the movie made it so easy for my daughter to recognize, name and describe a feeling.”

Armstrong echoed the importance of positive, accurate representations of mental health on screen, noting entertainment’s inclination for the opposite could be damaging.

“If we continue these negative stereotypes of people with mental illnesses, they’re not going to feel comfortable seeking help,” she said. “And seeking help is really one of the best things you can do … so it’s important for people who do have mental illnesses to know they’re not suffering alone and that the public doesn’t think that they are violent or unreliable or any of those things.”

STIs On The Rise

STDs

Experts urge getting tested as the highest number of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis cases were recorded in 2016

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, AIDS and HPV rarely make headlines anymore, but they’re still worth attention as the number of confirmed reports are rising at a hefty rate.

The number of Americans suffering from an STD is climbing, and the numbers have been rising for years, according to the most recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although STD and STI are terms used interchangeably, STD is used to refer to when a person shows obvious signs or symptoms, while the term STI has become more common as someone who tests STD-positive doesn’t always show symptoms, according to the American Sexual Health Association.

There were more than two million U.S. cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2016, which is the highest cumulative number on record — comprised of 1.6 million cases of chlamydia, 470,000 cases of gonorrhea and 28,000 of syphilis. More than half of those cases come from young people aged 15 to 24 years old, according to the CDC.

A chunk of those numbers come from Chicago, as it has the second largest number of recorded chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in the nation, according to Jill Dispenza, the director of HIV/AIDS & STD Services at the Center on Halsted (3656 N. Halsted St.), a community center in the Lakeview neighborhood specifically focused on community and health of LGBTQ people of Chicago.

Dispenza, who’s worked at the Center on Halsted for 14 years, said Chicago is seeing the highest numbers of those three STDs since 1997.

In 2016, chlamydia, one of the most common STDs in the nation, commonly spread by unprotected sex, was seen at a rate of 1,104.6 per 100,000 population in Chicago, making it the most common communicable disease in Chicago, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Gonorrhea, also exceedingly prevalent and spread by unprotected sex, was seen at a rate of 402 per 100,000 population.

Primary and secondary syphilis — the difference being primary is recognized by sores called chancres, while secondary is accompanied by a rash or lesions — was seen at a rate of 30.2 per 100,000 population in Chicago in 2016, according to IDPH. Both primary and secondary syphilis can be spread by having sex or skin-to-skin contact with a chancre, and an infected mother can spread it to her children.

The Center on Halsted conducts only HIV and Hepatitis C virus testing, at no cost, but Dispenza said it puts a large emphasis on getting tested for STIs, especially since the State of Illinois AIDS/HIV & STD Hotline (800-243-2437), an anonymous hotline for questions and resources, is housed at the center. The center also offers a database of locations around Chicago that offer STD testing, including some with free testing.

In working to educate Chicagoans when they call the hotline or go to the center, which consists of primarily young people in their late teens to early thirties, according to Dispenza, the center offers a range of information to minimize the spread of STDs, STIs, HIV, AIDS and HPV.

“In the testing sessions or on the hotline, we help people think about the goals that they have for their sexual health,” Dispenza said. “We help them come up with a plan, whether that’s using condoms … or making sure they’re getting tested regularly and that their partners are getting tested.”

Getting tested frequently and having partners who are tested could be why reports are increasing in both female and male genders. With chlamydia specifically, women experience higher rates of diagnoses because they tend to be tested more often than men for the infection, according to the CDC. If chlamydia isn’t treated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause some women to become infertile.

Syphilis has also increased for women, and can be easily spread to their children. In the United States, syphilis increased 36 percent for women and 28 percent for newborn babies since 2015. In the 600 cases of newborns inflicted, there were more than 40 deaths and severe health complications, according to the CDC.

However, STDs don’t necessarily affect women more than men. Although gonorrhea went up for both women and men in 2016, the most noticable increase was a 22 percent hike in the male population, specifically with those who identify as gay and bisexual. Along with the increase, there have been reports of some gonorrhea cases where the virus was immune to antibiotics, according to the CDC.

Sara Flanagan, a family nurse practitioner at Loyola's Wellness Center and doctoral student in the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, said she thinks gender and sexual inclusivity is significant. She said her doctoral project focuses on understanding sexual history in a way that is inclusive of diverse gender and sexual identities.

“One of the reasons that taking a sexual history is important is that it allows us to understand patient sexual practices and order STI testing that’s appropriate for that patient,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan said the center offers education on a number of topics and has a health promotion department that hosts programs on STI prevention and STI screening outreach on campus.

“In the clinic, we offer education to all patients on ways to reduce their risk of acquiring a STI,” Flanagan said. “Topics may include using a barrier, like a condom, correctly and consistently, vaccinations … getting tested regularly for STIs, talking to partners about sex and STI screening, lower risk sexual practices, PEP/PrEP and abstinence education.”

PEP/PrEP is pre-exposure prophylaxis, which can be taken to lower chances of getting infected for people who are at a high risk for HIV. PrEP can hinder the HIV virus from spreading throughout the body, while reducing the risk of getting HIV from having sex by more than 90 percent, according to the CDC.

Dispenza said a few things besides education could help stop the rise in STDS, such as making sure young people go to the doctor and get tested frequently, but also making sure doctors are welcoming patients, not shaming them for getting tested or for their races, ethnicities or gender identity. She said the most important factor is better communication between partners.

“People have sex, but they can’t sometimes seem to talk to each other about the sex that they had,” Dispenza said.

Some STDs don’t show symptoms, but a person can still carry the infection and spread it to other people, which is why Dispenza urges sexually active people and their partners to get tested.

“If you don’t know somebody’s status, use condoms out of respect for each other,” Dispenza said. “You can say to someone ‘Do you have any STDs?’ and they could say 'no,' but they can still have one without realizing it.”

Trading Zzz's for A's: Nursing Students Swap Sleep for Studying

Sleep

Courtesy of Steve Becker Photography

Nursing students spend most of their time and energy learning how to keep others healthy. Through this process, many nursing students end up sacrificing their own health by dedicating themselves to their studies. In the cycle of studying, labs, classes, clinicals and more studying, nursing students often end up forfeiting one important thing: sleep.

An unhealthy sleep schedule impacts a person physically, mentally and emotionally, and the effects can be seen in multiple areas of a person’s life. Natally Klocek, Martina Kowalczuk and Jazmyn Trinos, all 20-year-old nursing students, shared their habits with The PHOENIX.

While most U.S. college students get around six hours of sleep per night according to the University of Georgia Health Center, Klocek stands out. She said she aims for nine or 10 hours a night and always gets at least eight. Kowalczuk and Trinos said they’ve been averaging around five hours a night during the week this semester.

David deBoer, director of counseling at Loyola’s Wellness Center and a licensed clinical psychologist, shared some of the psychological impacts unhealthy sleep schedules have on college students. Overall, deBoer said a large portion of students who visit the Wellness Center would potentially benefit from a more regulated sleep schedule.

How should students prioritize their sleep?

DeBoer said college students should understand the importance of sleep because it aids in brain development. He said brain development for young adults is almost as important as it is for infants.

“Any parent of an infant knows just how incredibly important sleep is … when you’re raising young children, how crabby and unraveled they get when they haven’t gotten enough sleep, and the fact is that adults are very similar,” deBoer said. “Sleep deprivation is associated with health consequences, both [physical] and mental health consequences, it really has a depleting effect.”

Not only is a regulated sleep schedule important for brain development, but a 2017 study published by the journal Scientific Reports said a consistent sleep schedule is linked to higher grades among college students. The study cited a measurement called the sleep regularity index (SRI) and said SRI and grade point average were correlated.

How do students actually prioritize their sleep?

Kowalczuk said she gets around four or five hours of sleep a night, which is less than most college students. Kowalczuk said she’s quick to sacrifice sleep to accommodate other demands and she relies heavily on caffeine as a result.

“Honestly I kind of prioritize sleep as a last priority,” Kowalczuk said. “I know it’s horrible, but if I know I have a lot of studying to do I’ll be stuck at the [Information Commons] until 1 or 2 a.m., and then I get up at like 7 a.m. But I know I put school first.”

Klocek said she almost always prioritizes her sleep above her other commitments, but she plans her schedule accordingly.

“My study habits are very strict and I have my set routine,” Klocek said. “I’m one of those people who gets very cranky if I don’t get enough sleep, so that’s why I make it my priority.”

Trinos said she would ideally place sleep higher on her list of priorities, but with her busy schedule, that doesn’t always happen.

“I try to put [sleep] as number one [priority], but I feel like I’ve had so many things accumulating like homework and extracurriculars … that it feels like it’s starting to go down on my priorities,” Trinos said.

Is it healthy to take naps after not getting enough sleep?

DeBoer said midday naps can be beneficial and refreshing, but should be limited to 30 minutes and never taken after 5 p.m.

“Sometimes people compensate for a bad night’s sleep by napping,” deBoer said. “Daytime naps can be very restorative and regenerative, they can be a great idea, but if you sleep longer than say 30 minutes, that can disrupt your sleep cycle at night and you don’t get the kind of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep you need.”

Klocek said she avoids napping because she could spend that time doing something else.

“I don’t like to [nap] because I end up sleeping for too long and I feel like it takes up too much time out of my day,” Klocek said.

Kowalczuk said she often succumbs to the temptation of a nap to catch up on her missed rest from the night before, but her schedule as a nursing student doesn’t always allow for that.

Trinos said she naps three to four days out of a typical week, usually aiming for 45 minutes to an hour of napping before starting her studies.

What are the costs and benefits of caffeine? How do students use caffeine?

According to the University of California-Davis, there’s no amount of caffeine that’s considered “reasonable” across the board for college students. However, most college students often use caffeine as a substitute for healthier habits such as a regulated sleep schedule.

DeBoer said many students try to counter an unhealthy sleep schedule with not only caffeine, but also sugar, and these are habits he warned can cause people to be “jittery” and possibly heighten anxiety.

“[Too much caffeine or sugar] can disrupt concentration and disrupt a sense of well-being,” deBoer said. “The things people do to compensate for not getting good sleep also can have some negative effects and can lead people to feeling kind of chronically strung-out or worn-out.”

Klocek said she doesn’t consume a lot of caffeine because her sleep schedule doesn’t force her to rely on it, although she did say she likes the taste of coffee and will occasionally drink a cup.

On the other hand, Kowalczuk said she relies heavily on caffeine, usually having three to four cups of coffee per day and drinking energy drinks when she’s especially desperate.

Trinos falls somewhere in the middle, and she said she tries to limit her caffeine intake to two cups of coffee per day, a habit which began once coming to Loyola in 2016.

“Going into college, I’ve experimented and I started relying on coffee a lot more than I should,” Trinos said.

How does lack of sleep affect overall mood?

Sleep deprivation is linked with adverse impacts on mood. From feeling sluggish and unmotivated to feeling negative emotions more strongly, lack of sleep can take its toll. According to the National Sleep Foundation, unhealthy sleep habits are linked to worsening existing mental conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Kowalczuk said she has a history of mental illness and she feels negative effects from her long-term sleep deprivation.

“The sleep deprivation ends up building up,” Kowalczuk said. “I know I’m not the only one, there’s always one thing after another. It’s just non-stop.”

Klocek said she notices differences — both physical and mental — between herself and her peers who don’t get as much sleep.

“It’s noticeable just by looking at someone, you can tell if they have eye bags or not,” Klocek said. “You can tell that [people who don’t get enough sleep] don’t answer questions as quickly [in class] and that they’re thinking about going to sleep.”

Trinos said she finds herself less engaged in conversation and having a shorter temper after a insufficient night of sleep.

“I’m usually kind of irritable or I’m just kind of quiet in general if I don’t get enough sleep, and I find it harder to focus in class especially,” Trinos said. “I don’t necessarily fall asleep during class, but I feel like my mind strays away from what I should be focusing on in class.”

Tattooing Risks And An Artist’s Preventative Strategies

Tattoos

College can be a time of self-discovery and experimentation for many students. Body modifications, such as tattoos, are often part of this journey as they present an opportunity for bold self-expression. As soon as a student turns 18 years old in Illinois, they have the legal right to ink their skin without parental consent — but they should still take precautions when considering whether or not to get tattooed.

About 24 percent of U.S. college and private university students have tattoos, according to a 2016 clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Adolescence. However, the report also said while a majority of first-year college students knew the risk of contracting pathogens such as HIV when getting a tattoo, fewer knew of the risk of infection or other diseases such as hepatitis B and C and tetanus. Even if a tattoo doesn’t become infected in a parlor, there are still risks once the client returns home, such as infections and “blowouts,” or tattoo ink spreading out beneath the skin.

The PHOENIX spoke with a tattoo artist to discuss his methods for protecting his clients, and a Loyola student with a cautionary tale of a tattoo gone wrong.

Kaine Magdalen, 36, has been a tattoo artist for 10 years and takes his work at Tattoo Factory (4441 N. Broadway St.) in the Uptown neighborhood seriously. He said there’s more science involved in the art of tattooing than one might think, including a yearly blood-borne pathogen class each artist is required to take to keep up-to-date on the latest scientific findings about the communicable diseases which occasionally appear in tattoo parlors.

Once they’re working at a parlor, Magdalen said many tattoo artists implement a system called “universal precautions” when working with clients.

“Universal precautions is essentially thinking [every client] has every disease,” Magdalen said. “So if you treat everyone as having a blood-borne pathogen, then you are more safe with how you interact with them.”

With this mindset in place, Magdalen said he and his colleagues can ensure they’re being as sterile as possible and doing as much as they can to prevent the spread of illnesses. This includes using disposable equipment, wiping down work areas after every client and keeping their hands clean.

Tattoo Factory’s website details this “disposable tattoo system” on their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. It details how their instruments and work stations are cleaned before and after each client. Even with these precautions, Magdalen recognizes tattooing does come with some serious risks.

“The biggest concern is blood-borne pathogens and infections,” Magdalen said. “Those are the biggest risks. Most of those are nullified by everything being disposable and by just following universal precautions, things like that. Infections are generally more about what [a client] does when they get home, less about what we do here [at the parlor].”

Tattoo Factory’s FAQ page also has a section which lists aftercare procedures clients should follow when caring for a fresh tattoo. These include applying neosporin to the tattoo three to four times daily for 10-15 days, staying out of chlorinated pools and direct sunlight and avoiding picking at any forming scabs.

Kristen Fedor, a sophomore elementary education major at Loyola, experienced what she believes was an infection after getting a tattoo on the side of her foot in May 2017. She said the tattoo felt fine for the first two months after getting it done, but then she noticed things changing.

“It was painful to the touch and it was swollen and red in one area … The ink underneath, it spread out on my foot,” Fedor said. “And I’d hit it accidentally on something and it would bruise really easily. It’s super sensitive still. I didn’t actually go to the doctor, so I don’t know if it was actually infected.”

Blowouts can result in blurry lines, “halos” around a design, loss of detail and tenderness of the surrounding skin, according to a 2013 article published in the International Journal of Dermatology. It happens most often when the tattoo is in a location where the skin moves frequently, such as on the hands and feet.

“It’s pretty common with foot tattoos, so going into it, I already had that in my mind,” Fedor said.

Fedor’s tattoo is a motto she resonates with: “Everything happens for a reason.” On her heel, there’s a mountain range behind the end of the sentence. The suspected infection affected a few letters in the word “happens.” To remedy this, Fedor said she tried to contact the artist who gave her the tattoo.

“I tried emailing her to see if I could get a touch-up, because I thought that’s what the issue was,” Fedor said. “January of this year, she told me she was back [from an extended vacation]. I was like, ‘Alright, it’s been like four or six months, I’m fine with it now.’”

Magdalen said Fedor’s line of thinking is common but often misguided.

“Often when someone’s like, ‘Oh, my tattoo’s infected,’ I tell them to come in, because half the time they’re wrong and it’s just irritated,” Magdalen said. “I’ve seen infected tattoos and tattoos where [there was an allergic reaction], and it’s always way worse than people think it is. It’s pretty awful.”

During his decade of tattooing experience, Magdalen has seen evolution and advancements in both tattooing techniques and scientific sanitization processes aimed at preventing situations like Fedor’s, such as new cleaning solutions and sterilization procedures. He said while Chicago has strict health codes regarding tattooing, they aren’t the strictest he’s seen.

“When I started my career … I ended up in [Las] Vegas, and Clark County has some of the strictest health protocols in the country. In Portland [Oregon], you actually need a college degree [to be a tattoo artist],” Magdalen said. “In Clark County, I got hepatitis A and B vaccines. As far as I know, the hepatitis C vaccine is in testing. But if artists follow the universal precautions and keep up on keeping their area clean and sanitized, the risk of giving someone those illnesses is pretty low.”

Halas Personal Trainers Are Fit for the Job

Student Trainers Help Members of the Loyola Community Step Up Their Fitness Routines
Physical

ACE-certified trainer Heather Cigas goes through the workout plans she creates before guiding her clients through them and refrains from putting her clients through intense workouts she hasn’t done herself.
Credit: Mary Grace Ritter | The Phoenix

Young adults are often told they need to develop healthy lifestyle habits in college. Along with eating, sleeping and studying, students are encouraged to form and maintain physical fitness, which has been shown to reduce chances of chronic diseases and improve quality of life. At Loyola, personal trainers help students find a fitness routine which suits them.

In particular, college students might be at a crucial time in their lives when taking early, precautionary steps could prevent future development of chronic diseases, according to a 2016 study done by researchers at Winston-Salem State University. Yet the years spent at college are often synonymous with stress and unhealthy habits, as The Phoenix previously reported.

To that end, students can be seen in Loyola’s Halas Recreation Center located in the Damen Student Center, taking advantage of the many fitness offerings. Access to the facilities, which include basketball and racquetball courts, weight and cardio rooms, multiple training and group fitness studios, an eight-lane, 25-yard pool and rock climbing wall, are included in undergraduate tuition. Graduate students and faculty members can purchase gym memberships by semester or year.

Despite having access to these facilities, some find it difficult incorporating fitness into their daily routines. That’s where senior exercise science major Heather Cigas comes in.

Cigas is an American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified personal trainer and fitness instructor at Halas, where she currently trains four clients and teaches a Synergy360 class — a body strength and cardio class that uses dynamic circuit and interval exercises — twice weekly. During the past year, she’s learned the same workouts don’t work for everyone.

“There are different types of personalities and everyone is different, so I can’t say there’s one way to get someone to work out or to get that motivation,” Cigas said. “I think really it’s figuring out the person and then trying to find them a workout or something that they like.”

A fitness coordinator first meets with clients. After completing a health history assessment which goes over the client’s health habits and medical history to clear the client for training, the coordinator assigns them to one of the nine personal trainers at Halas. This process prevents students from training their professors and also helps the fitness coordinator meet client needs.

“People have specific types of trainers they want. Some want male, some want female, some want somebody who specializes in strength training. Other people want somebody who specializes in weight loss,” Megan Morris, director of campus recreation, said.

Credit: Mary Grace Ritter | The Phoenix

Campus recreation hires students to fill the personal trainer role, which creates a comfortable environment for students, who make up 95 percent of the gym-going population at Halas, according to Morris. She added hiring students also keeps costs down and creates more on-campus job opportunities for students, as the information trainers learn and implement with their clients is the same, regardless of age.

“We certainly could use outside trainers if we wanted to, but I think it’s been more successful for us to have students,” Morris said. “If we were to hire full-time trainers, the cost for our packages would be five or six times higher.”

Personal training packages can be bought in bundles of five, 10 or 15 sessions, each lasting 30 or 60 minutes. For students, prices range between $50 for an introductory pack including two sessions and $405 for 15, one-hour-long sessions. Non-student members of the Loyola community are offered similar packages with higher prices. For those more comfortable working out with others, both students and non-students can purchase duo training packages.

Some think the cost is unreasonable for students, according to Cigas. She said the prices are justified because of the amount of work trainers put in outside of sessions, such as in continuing education, a requirement to maintain the personal training certification.

“A lot of [high end] trainers can get paid upwards of $125 per session,” Cigas said. “I think compared to what other people are getting paid this is a really cheap option. It does cost money, but I think the reason people think it’s fair is because I did have to pay for the certification and we do have to do work outside of the session itself to make sure I can put together a program.”

Aside from the initial meeting and tri-weekly check-ins between trainer and fitness coordinator, Halas trainers have free reign of their programs. At first, Cigas struggled with the freedom.

“I was just tossed into it and they were like, ‘Here’s your client, do whatever you want,’ and because there were so many options … that was kind of hard,” Cigas said. “With training … there’s no one right way. There’s definitely better ways and worse ways.”

Long-term clients are rare, and those who choose to renew their training package after the initial five, 10 or 15 sessions only renew once, according to Cigas. She added she sees the positive side in clients who don’t always return because the goal of personal training is to help a client reach their goal and ideally get them to a place where they are comfortable working out on their own.

Through training at Halas and an internship where she shadows professional trainers, Cigas said she’s now confident in her abilities. Seeing positive impacts in her clients — such as a student thanking her for motivating them in class and preventing them from quitting — and receiving encouraging feedback helped, too.

“Someone came up to me [a few weeks ago] and they were like, ‘Hey, I just wanted to let you know I’ve been coming to your class for a while and I’ve noticed a lot of improvement in your teaching style’,“ Cigas said. “It’s the little things like that, that’s why I like my job.”

And Cigas’ own physical fitness has improved.

“What I do [at my internship] … I translate that to my clients, and I think I’ve noticed a change in my overall body too, from being able to put together better programs, which I first go through,” Cigas said.

Cigas, along with most of the personal trainers, will be graduating in May. After graduation, Cigas plans to attend physical therapy school next year.

Body And Mind

The Balancing Act of Being a Student Athlete
Athletics

Because golf is a daytime sport, Loyola golfers, including junior Elayna Bowser, sometimes miss entire days of classes, which can make studying after a long day spent on the course a challenging task.

Student-athletes spend approximately 34 hours per week on athletics, according to a 2015 study by the NCAA. The study also showed student-athletes get an average of six hours and 15 minutes of sleep per night, which is less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep for adults ages 18-25, according to the National Sleep Foundation. These types of schedules can cause both physical and mental health issues for student-athletes.

A 2016 article by the Journal of College Student Psychotherapy showed an estimated 10-15 percent of student-athletes suffer from psychological distress. An average of 8-9 percent of student-athletes sought campus mental health services, according to the article.

Student-athletes spend an average of 1.5 days per week away from campus for athletic events, according to the NCAA. During its March Madness run, the Loyola men’s basketball team was away from campus for most of the month. First-year guard Lucas Williamson has said it’s challenging to balance school and athletics, especially during the NCAA Tournament. But, he learned to manage his time to make sure he gets everything done.

“That’s kind of just what we signed up for,” Williamson said prior to the Sweet 16. “We flew back Sunday and I got something to eat and then I was right in study hall trying to catch up on my academics. It’s tough, but it’s … what we have to do.”

While sports such as basketball compete at night, golf is a sport which competes during the day, meaning it takes up more time. Junior golfer Elayna Bowser said the craziness of the golf schedule makes it tougher than people think to get homework done.

“That’s the thing that people don’t understand with golf,” Bowser said. “They’re like ‘Oh, yeah, you’ll have time to work on an essay or you can take an exam online,’ but especially on those 36-hole days, we’re literally out there from sun up to sun down and by the end of the day, we’re just so exhausted, [we] can’t focus on homework or anything but you just have to.”

Bowser also said the team sometimes has to get up early for practice, which cuts into the golfers’ sleep schedules. She said it’s tough to adjust, but they make it work.

“I think … one of the most important things is getting enough sleep because if you don’t have enough sleep, then the next day out on the course, you’re going to be tired and you’re not going to give it your all,” Bowser said. “So, I think that’s one of the most important things, especially in-season.”

During practices or games, student-athletes put themselves at risk for injuries. Student-athletes were injured at a rate of 11.4 per 1,000 athlete exposures in all sports during games in the 2003-04 season, according to a 2004 study by the National Athletic Trainers Association. Near the end of the season, athletes’ bodies become more fatigued. Dr. Nate Jones works in the sports medicine department at Loyola Medical Center and said the doctors talk to the athletes about training their bodies during the offseason for the long seasons.

The Loyola men’s basketball team spent most of March on the road, beginning early in the month in St. Louis for Arch Madness and ending with the Ramblers’ historic NCAA Tournament run at the end of the month in San Antonio, Texas.

“Injury prevention is a big part of what we do. I’m part of a team, so it’s not only me,” Jones said. “The athletic trainers that work with that particular team is really the most valuable person that I rely on [to know] the morale of the student-athlete is … whether they’re feeling fatigued or sick. So, those are things we discuss at the beginning of the year, what our goals are.”

When an athlete suffers an injury during a game, Jones said the trainer and team doctors usually go to the locker room with the head athletic trainer for an on-sight evaluation. Depending on the severity of the injury, he said the team of doctors works together to decide a course of action for treatment.

“If a player’s down on the court, [the head athletic trainer] goes out there [and] evaluates them,” Jones said. “If he thinks it’s something serious enough that he needs us, we’re on the sideline waiting [and] he’ll call us on the court and we’ll do an on-court evaluation. But, many times, [the athletes] are able to get up and walk off the court and we can evaluate them either courtside or … we take them back to the locker room.”

Uppers And Downers On The Rise Nationally

Drugs


Loyola students reported slightly lower use of marijuana than the average college student. College students have been reporting greater use of marijuana and study drugs, with a rise compared to the 1990s.

Graphic Credit: Christopher Hacker

Across the country, the nation’s drug laws are changing. In 2016, six states legalized cannabis in some form, and the city of Chicago decriminalized pot in 2015. So-called “study drugs,” such as Adderall and Ritalin, have grown more popular — and more widely abused. And as the landscape has shifted, so have students’ attitudes.

“I feel like people can do whatever they want to do, and I’m not going to stop them,” Laura Holland, a senior nursing major said. “Drugs aren’t great, but they’re also not as bad as they tell you they are in middle school.”

Marijuana

Marijuana has frequently been seen as the least risky recreational drug, according to data from more than four decades of surveys from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This research indicates college students’ attitudes about drug use have changed dramatically in recent years, particularly regarding cannabis use. In 2006, more than half of all college students who were surveyed in the NIH study said using weed regularly was risky. However, just ten years later, that number was as low as 29 percent.

“If somebody’s going to choose to do it, they can do whatever they want with their own body,” Kristin Flemming, a sophomore English major said.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use of marijuana. Since then, six other states have followed. The legalization and decriminalization of marijuana across the country has changed opinions of the drug on Loyola’s campus and around the nation.

“I am all for it, legalize weed, do whatever you want to do with weed,” Holland said.

In 1969, when Gallup first polled Americans about the legalization of marijuana, only 12 percent were in favor of legalization. In 2017, the number was up to 64 percent.

In addition to recreational use, many states have also legalized the use of cannabis for medical use. California became the first state to approve medical marijuana and 45 states have followed since then. Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas are the only states without medical marijuana laws.

Illinois has approved the use of medical marijuana to treat more than 40 “debilitating conditions” such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

But although laws surrounding marijuana might be changing, it’s still illegal under federal law — and against Loyola’s policies, according to Jeff Gardner, director of Loyola’s Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.

If students get caught with weed on campus, they can face university sanctions and have to pay a visit to the Wellness Center to talk about their drug use.

“I think student conduct offices often are seen as punitive,” Gardner said. “There are times in which student might be fined, but our first hope in a process like that is for education. We want to balance education with accountability.”

As attitudes on marijuana use have shifted — and drug laws have changed with them — an unprecedented number of college students have said they smoke pot.

According to the NIH study, cannabis use among college students has risen steadily since the 1990s. In 1991, just over a quarter of college students said they’d smoked weed in the last year. But that number rose to nearly 40 percent in 2016, and about 22 percent of respondents said they’d used cannabis in the last 30 days.

At Loyola, that number was slightly lower. In a 2016 survey conducted by Loyola’s Wellness Center, about 19 percent of students said they used marijuana in the last 30 days. But the rise in pot use could be driving another change: the perception college students have of peers’ marijuana habits.

The Wellness Center survey showed students think more than 90 percent of their peers use cannabis — more than four times the reported amount.

“I think there is a perception that a lot more people do smoke marijuana or use some form of marijuana more frequently than it actually is,” Gardner said. “I think that can lead to normalizing the behavior.”

But while marijuana use has and continues to become more normal, Gardner said Loyola’s policies might not be set in stone.

“I think we absolutely are in tune with legislation [and] the upcoming governor’s race where both candidates for governor have discussed legalizing marijuana,” Gardner said.

Gardner said he isn’t sure exactly how those policies might change, but said it’s likely they’ll shift if marijuana is eventually legalized in the United States .

“If we got to a place where we needed to have discussions about how our policies best reflect the laws and guidelines that are issued and also what’s best for our campus we’d absolutely be open to that,” Gardner said.

While smoking marijuana hasn’t been linked to lung cancer like cigarettes have, it still isn’t good for the lungs and can cause coughing and wheezing, according to Loyola’s Student Health 101 Magazine. Since the legalization of marijuana in several states, alternative forms of using cannabis which don’t involve smoking, such as edibles and vaporizers, have become more popular.

Marijuana’s main ingredient, THC, affects motor skills, according to the magazine. Marijuana is the second most commonly detected drug — behind alcohol — in the blood of drivers in car accidents.

Cannabis affects the brain by releasing dopamine — a neurotransmitter that affects the brain’s pleasure center. According to the magazine, heavy use of marijuana lessens the amount of dopamine released and can lead to decreased happiness, weakened memory and a smaller attention span.

However, a study by the Society for the Study of Addiction found use of cannabis didn’t affect brain structure while alcohol did.

Use of marijuana is well-known for causing dry, red eyes, but it can also harm long-term vision, according to Loyola’s magazine.

Study Drugs

While a greater portion of college students might be smoking pot to feel its relaxing effects, others are using a different kind of drug to stay energized. So-called “study drugs” — stimulants intended to treat disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) — are being abused in greater numbers by college students looking for an extra boost while studying.

Commonly called Adderall after the most widely known study drug brand, study drugs are amphetamines that boost brain activity to help people with overactive brains remain focused, according to the NIH. But people without ADHD or ADD are increasingly using these kinds of drugs to help with schoolwork, according to Dr. David deBoer, a licensed clinical psychologist at Loyola’s Wellness Center.

“Certainly a number of students are on Adderall or other stimulants for ADHD,” deBoer said. “But because it’s a medication a lot of students abuse, campuses have faced issues of college students borrowing, stealing or otherwise getting Adderall for energy.”

In recent years, more college students reported using study drugs than ever before. In 1991, less than four percent of college students said they used amphetamines without the supervision of a doctor. But in 2016, that number was nearly 10 percent.

At Loyola, deBoer said the number of students who reported using study drugs in the Wellness Center’s 2016 survey was more than eight percent, and as high as 12 percent for male students.

And while study drug abuse carries health risks — cardiovascular problems and an increased risk of mental health issues, according to a 2016 Johns Hopkins University study — and sharing or selling prescription stimulants is a felony, less than 40 percent of college-aged adults said they felt using amphetamines was harmful, according to NIH data.

“I think [study drugs] are a bit different because you need a prescription to get those,” Flemming said. “If they’re going to be needing a drug to do a whole night of studying, maybe they should have broken down the project a little bit more. But, if they want to do it, I guess it’s up to them.”

And on top of the widespread perception that study drugs aren’t harmful, a majority of young adults surveyed in the NIH study said they felt amphetamines such as Adderall are easy to get.

Gardner said the perception that using study drugs without a prescription isn’t dangerous can lead students to make mistakes that can affect them for their whole lives if they get caught.

“I can’t share with you enough how many times I’ve heard where students don’t expect to be caught or they don’t expect something to happen and it’s years later where they’re now having to disclose that on an application to grad school or med school or law school,” Gardner said.

To students who might be weighing the risks and benefits of using study drugs, Gardner had a warning.

“I would encourage them to really consider … what they would be comfortable with several years down the road if they had to talk about their decision now,” Gardner said. “I think in the immediate it may seem low-risk, nothing to worry about, very low impact on other people. But that same person might be pre-med trying to go to medical school and that might look very differently if you’re having to disclose that on a medical school application.”

Sing a Note. Strum a Chord. Bang a Drum.

Music

Some benefits of playing an instrument include increased cognitive awareness and motor dexterity, according to assistant professor Elizabeth Wakefield.
Courtesy of Ray Bouknight | Flickr
  • By Maggie Yarnold

Studies show playing instruments has far-reaching, positive effects on people’s cognitive and emotional health.

Elizabeth Wakefield is an assistant professor in Loyola’s psychology department and teaches psychology and music. Aside from teaching, her research falls within the purview of development within music.

Wakefield said she was introduced to this subset field of psychology during her undergraduate education at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. She said music has been shown to help people’s cognitive awareness and motor dexterity. Cognitive awareness is a person’s knowledge of themselves and their surroundings through perceptions, judgment and reasoning. Motor dexterity is the development of small, intricate movements such as synchronizing hand and finger movements with the eyes.

Playing an instrument can have far-reaching effects of improved vocabulary skills and phonemic awareness, which is the ability to process a language and break it down, according to Wakefield.

“Music isn’t going to turn you into a genius, but it is going to be able to help with a number of different cognitive abilities,” Wakefield said.

One study, conducted by Nina Kraus of Northwestern University, found children in Chicago Public Schools who were involved in musical performance could more easily hear their teachers’ voices through the background noise of the classroom. This means in public schools, children who play instruments are more likely to hear the auditory cue of their teacher talking than those not enrolled in a music program.

Megan Delsignore, a junior psychology major and music minor, first learned the piano when she was three years old and began taking lessons at age nine. She then picked up the flute, which she continues to play at Loyola. She said playing music helps her relax and center her emotions.

“If I’m having a stressful day I go and practice,” Delsignore, 20, said. “I just really love it, it’s a hard feeling to describe. You’re telling a story through the piece and you channel your emotions into it.”

However, music and art programs are often the first to be defunded or cut from public schools. In 2008-09, the National Center for Education Statistics found 90 percent of public elementary schools provided general music education. But, only 44 percent of those schools had chorus or band and only 28 percent offered strings or orchestra. Program availability varied by location, with elementary students in rural towns receiving the fewest musical classes.

Schools with music programs see about 18 percent more students graduate, and school attendance rates are 8.4 percent higher, according to the Children’s Music Workshop, an Emmy award winning music education company in Los Angeles.

Wakefield said music programs often provide social connections for students, which can lead to higher attendance and graduation rates — especially in low socio-economic schools.

“In terms of emotional benefits … a lot of the research that’s been done on that is more about being involved in group activity,” Wakefield said. “If you’re playing in an orchestra or choir, that can be really useful for kids because it gives them a sense of identity and a group of friends.”

John Gardner is the founder and executive director of the World Music Foundation, the nonprofit he created in 2012 to help urban and rural youth gain tolerance for other cultures through music.

Gardner began playing the blues harmonica at 15, but started taking it more seriously when he moved to Chicago at 25. He said he used to travel a lot, so he enjoyed being able to always carry his instrument, and playing for world-renowned musicians in India inspired him to start the foundation, which is based in Chicago and spans nine countries.

“I was managing a tour for a well-known Indian blues artist … I played just a small bit [for the professional musicians] and their eyes lit up,” Gardner said. “Not because of my musical abilities, but because of the conversation that opened up. That changed my perspective.”

Gardner said, although he doesn’t know the science behind the emotional benefits of playing music, he sees the benefits surface in his students every day.

“My main interest is how it helps people understand better other people’s emotions,” Gardner said. “By immersing yourself in music of another culture … it helps people understand people of other cultures through their music.”

Gardner said the positive cognitive and emotional benefits of playing an instrument exist even if a person stops playing for decades.

“If your brain is working faster … they’ll have better attention, better reading ability,” Gardner said. “It helps keep you in a happier state.”

Delsignore said playing music has helped her focus on tasks and the activity translates into her other day-to-day responsibilities.

“Having that discipline in my life has helped me to be focused and work harder toward other goals,” Delsignore said. “It keeps me grounded in my responsibilities … and that translates into other parts of my life.”

Wakefield said the brain releases chemicals into the body when someone gets “chills” while listening to music; these chemicals are similar to those released during pleasure or synthetic drug use.

“The take home is there’s a lot of really good reasons to be involved in music, both listening and performing it,” Wakefield said.

Appetite For Change

Nutrition

The Damen Food Court (above) has food stations and packaged items available

College students struggling to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet isn’t a new battle. For those who choose to eat from the limited selection provided during Loyola’s late-night dining hours in de Nobili Hall Sundays-Thursdays from 8-11 p.m., meeting one’s nutritional goals can be even more troublesome.

After conducting a nutritional breakdown on an average meal available during de Nobili’s late-night dining, The Phoenix found a standard meal contains 402 calories and 45 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of fat — with 28 percent of those fats being saturated.

And while not all saturated fats are bad and typically not as harmful as trans fats, saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels, negatively impacting heart health. Most nutrition experts recommend limiting saturated fats to 10 percent of a person’s daily calories.

At every meal, a healthy plate should consist of a protein source, complex carbohydrates, vegetables or fruit and a small amount of heart-healthy mono or polyunsaturated fats. It’s also important to limit foods high in saturated fats and simple sugars, according to Lindsey Harrigan, a registered dietitian at Loyola’s Wellness Center.

Loyola’s dining services are designed and provided by Aramark, a contracted company which also employs registered dietitians, such as Harrigan, to help analyze the nutritional content of food and help with menu planning.

“Looking at the [de Nobili’s] late-night options offered, there is much more of a struggle to make healthy choices. It would be nice to see some additional healthy offerings on the late night menu,” Harrigan said.

An example of a meal offered at de Nobili’s late-night dining is the “Crispy Chicken Nuggets” with “Crispy Shoestring French Fries.” If consumed within the suggested portion sizes stated on Loyola’s Dining Services Menu, a student would eat five chicken nuggets and a three-and-one-fourth ounce serving of french fries.

In total, this meal would contain 500 calories, 35 grams of fat and seven grams of saturated fat.

This is roughly equal to 25 percent of a student’s recommended daily caloric intake and 63 percent of one’s daily recommended fat intake — 20 percent of which come from saturated fats. These numbers are based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories.

In order to provide nutritional information for the foods served in the dining hall, Aramark uses its Healthy for Life program. The nutritional information must be in compliance with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) National Menu Labeling law, which states calories and other nutrition information must be directly provided for standard menu items “... to enable consumers to make informed and healthful dietary choices.”

The law applies to restaurants and similar food establishments if they’re a part of a chain of 20 or more locations doing business under the same name with similar menu items.

When asked how accurate the nutritional information cards in the dining halls were, Aramark representative Monique Bonanno said the company relies on manufacturer information. Aramark also uses a nutrition analyst software system to generate nutrition facts for its recipes using the ingredients it purchases, according to Bonanno.

Bonanno also said Aramark seeks nutritional advice from internal culinary nutrition analyst teams comprised of chefs and dietitians who work together to develop the company’s recipes and menus each semester.

“They take into account various food allergies and intolerances and food preferences and strive to incorporate a variety of menu items that meet a wide range of dietary needs,” Bonanno said. “We encourage regular feedback and suggestions regarding menu offerings [from students] through our ‘Your Voice Counts’ survey and ‘Contact Us’ pages on our dining website.”

Harrigan said she believes Aramark provides several foods which can fulfill a person’s daily dietary recommendations. However, she said she still thinks each student is responsible for seeking out proper nutrition education to help make healthier choices for optimal health.

Harrigan also said a common trend she sees in college students is a lack of proper knowledge when it comes to nutrition, and a cycle of inadequate dietary intake during the day — both intentional and unintentional — which may lead to less healthy choices in the evening.

With de Nobili being the only dining hall on campus open later in the evening, a student’s inability to make healthy choices can be heightened given its selection.

According to Aramark’s menu, sliced fruit is offered during late-night dining hours, but 18-year-old Ashley Blumenthal said this wasn’t available last semester when she was in search of healthier options on campus.

Based on a personal medical condition, Blumenthal was able to receive approval from Loyola to be exempted from the required dining hall plan. The first-year, pre-med student said when she did have a meal plan, she could only eat at the salad bar and soup and she was becoming malnourished.

“When I still had the dining hall plan last semester, they did not have fruit or vegetables [at late-night],” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal continued, saying, “I would definitely still be eating in the dining hall if their options were healthier. I love getting the fruit and veggie cups in Damen or in the cafe in the IC [Information Commons]. But, as for the nutrition as a whole, the only options I could eat were not meeting any nutritional guidelines, so I had to buy my own groceries.”

Another late-night option is the “Greek Chicken Salad.” And while the salad is served with grilled chicken and lettuce, the lack of other vegetables at late-night can leave students falling short of their dietary goals.

At late-night dining, all but the french fries and chicken salad contain little to no serving of fruits or vegetables. Carbohydrate-dense french fries do come from potatoes, but deep frying vegetables can alter the chemical compositions of the vegetable, often destroying the beneficial vitamins and minerals that were present in the vegetable before frying.

Deep-frying foods also increases the formation of end-products on the surface of fried foods, resulting in increased levels of oxidative stress on the body. Oxidative stress can arise when the body can’t detox free radicals and their harmful effects.

To address growing concern over the lack of healthy options for late-night dining, Bonanno said Aramark is currently working with its culinary team to diversify the late-night menu. The potential menu is looking to incorporate items such as grilled chicken, garden burgers, salads, turkey sausage and egg white omelets.

Senior social work major Morgan Katz said while she enjoys the chicken nuggets and fries offered at late-night, she feels she can’t eat as healthy as she would like.

“I try to eat healthy instead of having fries all the time. The fruit [offered in de Nobili] is good, but it gets boring and I’d like to be able to have more variety of healthy foods rather than just one option. I do enjoy the salad bar, which closes around 8:15 p.m,” Katz said.

In addition to de Nobili’s late-night dining is the Damen Food Court, located in the center of the Damen Student Center, for those looking to grab something to eat on campus after regular hours in the dining halls have ended.

Options in the food court include Bleecker St., Burger Studio, Topio’s and Zoca, in addition to grab-and-go options including salads, chips and candy, a trail mix bar and some produce. The food court is open until 1 a.m., with Bleecker St. closing at 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

“The food court [in Damen] could have larger quantities of healthy items and replenish them throughout the day and night. It seems like they run out every time I’ve been there, which is always at night, and they don’t put any new ones out,” Katz said.

Bonanno said there’s a team of employees who replenish the grab-and-go items in Damen, packing the items “to capacity,” and sushi from Wisepak Foods, a company which prepares the food court’s sushi, is delivered to the Damen Food Court every morning.

“We make sure our staff is diligent in putting all available product on the shelves throughout the day, and once it’s gone, it won’t be replaced till the next day when items are freshly delivered,” Bonanno said.

Health Tech — Saving Lives, Compromising Others

Opinion

Similar health-related apps have drastically different effects on students’ lives.
Courtesy of Flickr-user Nicola

We’re more equipped with mobile device applications today than ever before. These apps can be informational tools that can help us understand the surrounding world — some apps offering breaking scientific news or the latest popular entertainment. And some health-related apps can even help us understand ourselves and our own bodies, which influences how we interact with that very world.

Some of us want to walk farther; some want to read faster; some want to lose weight in two weeks or less. And monitoring apps, such as pedometers, eye-exercisers and daily dietary logs, seem to be the simple solution to a complex desire.

Many students use mobile apps to track their quality of sleep or similar digital items, such as Fitbits, to quantify their daily caloric burn. The idea is: Measuring our activities can help us improve upon them.

Jonathan Chen, incoming Loyola freshman and to-be economics major, uses the Activity App on his Apple Watch to set himself fitness goals.

When it comes to forming daily habits, Chen explained, “The app has a pretty big influence on me … The app gives me a virtual reward, for example, if I burn 350 calories, [stay] awake for 12 hours or have 30 minutes of movement — or all three. This makes me want to exercise more.”

These virtual rewards come in the form of “medals” for various fitness-related achievements, incentivizing further use of the app and helping users become more active over time.

But for others, similar health-app use isn’t as attractive, as the habitual monitoring of an activity runs the risk of making it less enjoyable.

A recent study published by The Journal of Consumer Research observed this outcome. In each of six experiments conducted by a team of researchers at Duke University, it was found measurement of an activity does, indeed, increase how much of that activity people are able to complete; however, it simultaneously reduces how much those people enjoyed doing them.

This research is only confirming what some users of these apps, including myself, have long experienced.

Drawing attention to how well or poorly one is able to complete an activity, which can be anything from consuming daily meals to reading for pleasure, can make those activities feel more like chores.

For example, any of a selection of sleep apps, which aim to improve rest by recommending sleep and wake times — but also grade sleep on the 100-point scale familiar to students — can turn dreams dour and make meditations mediocre. For students who are already overwhelmed with assignments, these apps may only offer another assignment disguised as self-improvement.

And consequences can be worse than mere boredom. For some students, this pursuit of self-improvement or control can become obsessive.

Extensive data from one college over a 13-year period revealed total eating disorders increased from 23 to 32 percent among females and from 7.9 to 25 percent among males, according to a paper published in 2011 in The Journal of Treatment and Prevention. Those with eating disorders might use these apps to further enable related unhealthy habits.

One Loyola sophomore and exercise science major who prefers to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the topic was a part of that percentage. She recalled her years as a competitive gymnast in high school and as a coach as a Loyola freshman when she used health apps to an unhealthy degree.

“I found it easier to set fitness goals through these apps. But it ended up consuming all of my time and became part of my eating disorders, too. It was scary,” the student recounted.

While she didn’t use any health related apps during her course of recovery, some struggling with eating disorders or other mental disorders choose to.

Some students with existing health conditions depend on these apps to manage their chronic conditions daily.

Noelle Wands, a Loyola senior, said she has type 1 diabetes and uses an app called Dexcom that directly relates her continuous glucose monitor — a device that informs her on her blood sugar levels — to her smartphone via bluetooth. A second smartphone app called Dexcom Clarity then relays this information directly to her doctor’s office.

“These two apps are extremely helpful in my diabetes care because I have real-time data and trends of my glucose levels,” the biology major said.

Wands also uses MyFitnessPal, a nutritional app often used to count calories. Instead, she uses this app to track the carbohydrate content of what she eats, which also helps manage her blood sugar levels.

When asked about her experience using these apps, Wands said, “For me, it’s really not a chore … For [people] with medical problems, these types of apps are actually extremely beneficial because we have to care about what we’re eating and when we’re eating.”

When it comes to using these applications, it’s best to use your personal discretion and the discretion of a nutritionist or physician as to which will encourage healthy habits without causing collateral damage. Unfortunately, contrary to the saying, there might not be an app for that.

Sick? Skip. Here’s a Universal Excuse Note

Opinion
Excelling in class and maintaining your health shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
Courtesy of pxhere.com

No one wants to be the person coughing incessantly through a lecture, but you decided to go to class anyway.

We get it; we’ve been there. You already missed your allowed skipped days, or there’s new material to go over or a guest speaker is coming who you’ll be quizzed on. In college, you can’t have your parent call in sick for you, and some professors won’t consider a bad cold a good enough excuse to miss an important day of class.

But they should — even if for the sake of their own health. The common cold becomes contagious a day before symptoms even surface and remains contagious for about five days after the sickness begins. And influenza, or the flu — a strain of which caused more than 140 pediatric deaths this past flu season, reportedly one of the worst seasons in nearly a decade — is contagious one day before symptoms arise and five to seven days after contracted. It can be spread to others up to six feet away, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While some cases might need more treatment than others, the CDC recommends staying home and avoiding contact with others besides to get medical care for most cases of the flu. This might put you behind in your work, but it can help you get better and those around you avoid becoming sick. There’s no sense in spreading your illness to the unsuspecting people you work or share class with when it’s easily avoidable.

Plus, when you don’t feel up to par, your concentration is less likely to be at its best. One 2012 study showed participants with cold symptoms reported being less alert and having slowed psychomotor abilities and a more negative mood. At that point, going to a lecture means you might not be getting as much out of the day as you normally would at your healthiest.

Professors should consider the merits of encouraging students not to come in if they’re sick. And many do, offering a certain amount of skip days or accepting an email letting them know you won’t be able to make it that day. But others seem less willing, with some syllabi limiting excused absences to death in the family, hospitalization and other extreme scenarios.

Others enact what seems a reasonable requirement: Getting a doctor’s note to excuse sick days. But this isn’t always feasible. Most people can differentiate when they have a bad cold, which often doesn’t necessitate a doctor’s visit, versus a more serious illness, and going to get it checked can be counterproductive when maybe all you need is some rest.

And the doctor’s note tactic doesn’t always account for one seldom overlooked part of a student’s overall fitness: mental health. One in six American adults live with a mental illness, which can range in severity from moderate to severe, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Mental health days can be vital to overworked, overstressed students. Taking a day to rest and to rejuvenate from everyday responsibilities — which often can include a full-time class schedule and a part-time job, internship, extracurriculars or some combination thereof — can make all the difference in finding the stamina to finish out a semester strong.

But sometimes, it’s up to your own discretion when you need a day to rest. It’s not often something you can get a doctor’s note for, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

Of course, this isn’t to say students should be skipping class whenever they feel like it. Classes are a vital part of a student’s education, and something students cough up a lot of money for in order to attend. But getting good grades and maintaining your health shouldn’t be mutually exclusive goals.

So professors, please consider the overall health of your students — and yourself — when tailoring your syllabus and setting the ground rules on the first day of class. And students, consider your own well-being before pushing yourselves too far. Your grade can probably stand missing one day, but your health might take a hit if you don’t.

Sleep: You Snooze, You Win

Opinion

The life of a college student and a healthy sleep schedule often seem to oppose each other. The cyclical pattern of class, homework and making sure you remember to eat becomes surprisingly overwhelming, leaving the question: Do I sleep, or do I study? While it might seem far-fetched, there are ways to incorporate a healthy sleep routine into your schedule, making your busy life and your bed coexist in harmony.

Sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining mental and physical health. The benefits of being well-rested are vital when living a life that’s both productive and organized. According to the National Sleep Foundation, getting enough sleep every night can contribute to aspects such as helping you focus and increasing happiness. In addition, being well-rested leads to a stronger immune system, meaning less time dealing with coughing and colds and more time to fit in that paper you’ve been procrastinating writing.

While the benefits of getting a good night's sleep are well known, they’re often overlooked by busy students. But ruling out the benefits of a healthy amount of rest and conforming to a bad sleep schedule will lead to nothing but a lack of concentration and an insatiable thirst for your twin XL bed. So, how do you incorporate a healthy sleep schedule?

1) Napping: It’s perfectly normal to incorporate naps into your daily routine. This will allow you to gain energy during a mid-day dip. However, being well-rested and energized only results from certain napping patterns, while others can leave you groggy or confused. What goes into a “good nap” relies on whether or not you interrupt yourself while in deep sleep. It’s necessary when you nap to either avoid or cycle through rapid eye movement (REM), not set an alarm to disrupt it. Nap times should be 20 minutes or 90 minutes and not a minute in between. When you nap for 20 minutes, referred to as a “power nap,” you only sleep during non-rapid eye movement (NREM). If you want to sleep longer, sleeping for 90 minutes is the perfect amount of time as you cycle through all the stages of NREM and rapid-eye movement (REM or deep sleep).

2) Manage Your Time: This one might not seem as obvious as napping, but it’s extremely important when your sleep is sometimes determined by how much homework you have to do. Scheduling your week ahead of time will relieve stress and give you a chance to tackle your weekly workload with enough sleep. If you have three assignments due Friday, you can schedule Information Commons visits during the week in increments, so you’re not there until 4 a.m. Thursday night. Look at your class syllabus and plan ahead of time, leaving your sleep (and school) routine punctual, responsible and well-balanced.

3) Be Consistent: Your body and mind love routine, and being consistent in your schedules will allow you to be more in tune with yourself. Have a general bedtime, along with a nighttime routine and a morning routine. No matter how simple, eventually it will become easier to both fall asleep and wake up when your internal clock is accustomed to it. And no matter what, don’t press snooze. The sleep you get post-snooze isn’t high quality sleep and won’t do anything for you besides make you irritable. Sleep is insanely important when regulating your energy, diet, focus and overall mental and physical standing. Incorporating these small adjustments into your life will lead to a healthier sleep schedule and a more relaxed day-to-day routine.

About This Issue — From the Editor's Desk

This week, The PHOENIX looks a little different. It’s that time of year again — our special issue has arrived. For weeks, our staff debated what topic to focus on after last year’s gun violence issue. There are so many subjects worth exploring within our pages, and we evaluated each one: Would this be something our readers are interested in? Do we have the resources to do this topic justice? How can we help inform our readers and gain their perspective to enhance our coverage?

After deliberation, we went with a topic that's often pushed to the backburner for students: health. With classes, social obligations and other responsibilities, it’s easy for students to forget to take care of themselves — both physically and mentally.

While you might feel you’re already in particularly good health, perhaps your peers aren't. Take a look through this issue and you’re bound to learn something. We hope our reporting can contribute to bettering your ability to care for yourself and, maybe, even care for others.