By: Alexis Mitchell
When students first walk into Shafer Library at the University of Findlay, they might not see the board at first, but walking out of the library they’ll find it’s hard to miss.
In the glass case in the library, “Tell your story” is displayed with pictures of different students with a disability. Under their picture is the students’ name, disability, and some fun facts about the student.
Lori Colchagoff, the director of Disability Services at UF, says that this board allows students to get to know other students with a disability.
“It is a person behind the disability,” said Colchagoff, “It makes them feel so good to be recognized.”
Out of 98 undergraduate and 32 graduate students, four students with a disability are chosen one month out of the year to be showcased in the library. This has been ongoing for the last three years.
Disabilities are often thought of as visible, easily noticeable. However, there are some disabilities that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Nick Lamb, a UF junior and sports and event management major, has an invisible anxiety disorder which affects his everyday life.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, an anxiety disorder is, “A nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.” For example, Lamb’s uneasiness and apprehension started in elementary when he was in the classroom taking tests with other students.
Anxiety is an increasingly common issue today, especially when it comes to college students. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 11 percent of college students between the ages of 18 and 24 have been diagnosed or treated for anxiety.
When Lamb’s mother first pointed out his disability, Lamb was still too shy to ask a teacher if he could take his tests in a different room separated from the other students. But once he took that brave step forward, Lamb’s disability did not bother him nearly as much.
“Knowing I learned in a different way has helped me come out of my social shell,” explained Lamb.
Now, as a college student, Lamb appreciates having the Testing Center here at the University to help him with his anxiety while taking tests. Lamb enjoys going here to take his tests because it helps calm his nerves.
This is where the board in Shafer library comes into play. Colchagoff says that the students who do allow their stories to be posted, receive a very warm welcome. It allows other students on campus to learn more about students with disabilities.
“They work so hard and are doing well and are getting the support to make sure they keep doing well,” said Colchagoff.
Colchagoff has had a lot of experience with college students like Lamb, who deal with anxiety. In fact, she says that invisible disabilities are the highest disability she registers at Disability Services.
“The mental health issue is really increasing among young adults,” said Colchagoff. “It’s important we can help them in that avenue”.
To Lamb, his disability is something that he takes pride in. He believes that our differences are our strengths, not our weaknesses.
“This disability for the most part has helped me realize who I am,” said Lamb. “And many people experience different things with this disability.”
The anxiety doesn’t stop Lamb from living his life. During the spring 2017 semester Lamb studied abroad in Australia, where he was able to connect with other students from 30 different countries as well as dive right into the culture. Lamb says that he was very grateful for this trip because it allowed him to come out of his shell even more. He now sees himself as a social butterfly.
This is just one example of how a disability does not define a human being or stop them from truly living the life they want to live.
“I feel like that sets me apart because I feel like I am not like anyone else on campus, but in the same way I fit into the family perfectly,” explained Lamb.
Only 34.2 percent of college students who have anxiety report it, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The University of Findlay Counseling Services has a great team of counselors who are always available to help. The 24-hour seven-day-a-week hotline is 1-888-936-7116.