Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

St. Mary’s College uses coloring to promote mental health

Students at St. Mary's College of Maryland test out their new coloring books. (Photo from St. Mary's College of Maryland).

Students at St. Mary’s College of Maryland test out their new coloring books. (Photo from St. Mary’s College of Maryland).

If you’re one of the people concerned that college campuses are stifling intellectual challenges and becoming too warm, cozy and coddling…well, keep an open mind on this one.

St. Mary’s College of Maryland is trying to make sure all of its first-year students are familiar with the wellness services offered on its campus — by giving them a full-size coloring book.

Perhaps you’re already familiar with the adult-coloring trend, or have noticed the array of coloring books on the “CLEARANCE” shelf at Barnes & Noble and wondered what it was all about. If not, here’s the pitch: studies have suggested coloring can lower the heart rate, distract you from whatever you’re stressing about and generally help you relax.

College students are particularly susceptible to stress: about one-third of students in the U.S. have difficulty functioning due to depression, and almost half report feeling overwhelming anxiety, according to St. Mary’s officials, who cite a study of 125,000 students by the National College Health Assessment.

Coloring events and therapy programs have started to appear on college campuses, so St. Mary’s decided to offer its freshman their own book.

“We are excited to be able to offer our students this fun and beneficial tool and hope it can be a model for other schools looking to support students in new and innovative ways,” Kyle Bishop, executive director of the college’s wellness center, said in a news release.

Each of the book’s 16 illustrations illustrates a stress-reducing concept students can incorporate into their daily lives. A drawing of the St. Mary’s community farm, for example, is accompanied by information on healthy eating and the importance of good nutrition to maintaining a good mood.

St. Mary’s College has about 1,800 students altogether, so let’s hope they have enough crayons.