Students from schools across the globe grow up dreaming of getting into a college of their choice. Everyone craves the best experiences, and getting it along with good education and a degree is doubly rewarding. Yet, for those who deal with mental health issues, the mere thought of having a good college life can be overwhelming and daunting.
Experts and researchers across the globe agree that mental health problems faced by students are nothing short of an epidemic or crisis.
Mental health for students is a growing concern for everyone connected with academics. A few decades ago, it was a pipe dream for those suffering from mental health disorders to attend college.
Today, the discussion about implementing better processes is a lot more normalized than before. Continual action is being taken to reduce common mental disorders in college students. Thus, students can take care of their mental well-being better while pursuing their college life.
Parents, teachers, and other faculty members are exposed to a lot more information about the prevalence of college mental illness in current times. Many educational institutions also provide regular sessions, seminars, and even complete courses about the importance of mental well-being and ways of achieving it, especially while in college.
Additionally, as all students abundantly use social media, these channels serve to improve their health. There are now several online and offline resources that can help nurture and maintain mental health.
Mental Health Problems in College Students
The stress of growing up and taking on the never-ending responsibilities of adulthood is already a big one. Besides, individuals often struggle with the need to manage studies, work, and personal relationships at once. Continuous stress and anxiety can lead to mental illness college.
Students have to contend with various new types of problems and pressures due to the constantly advancing sphere of education. Considering the situation, we can begin to understand the extent of the mental health threat they face today.
Student mental health issues like anxiety, depression, addiction, and suicide are a significant cause for concern. Here are some statistics to show it.
- The Association for University and College Counselling Center Directors surveyed counseling center directors. The association has found that anxiety is the top presenting concern among college students (41.6 percent). It is followed by depression (36.4 percent) and relationship problems (35.8 percent).
- According to a recent survey from the American College Health Association (ACHA), close to 60 percent of students said they often felt overwhelmed by anxiety. In comparison, at least 40 percent experienced depression so severe they had difficulty functioning daily.
- According to the Addiction Center, approximately 31 percent of US college students have reported symptoms of alcohol abuse. Additionally, between 1993 and 2005, the proportion of students who abused stimulants like Xanax and Valium increased by 450 percent.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15 and 24. Over 90 percent of those who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder. It’s typically a depressive disorder or substance abuse disorder.
Everyone needs to learn more about the issue of college students and mental health. We should understand the severity of the situation to implement better wellness plans. This way, students can have a happier college life and a brighter future ahead.
Here are some of the mental illness college students most commonly encounter today.
Everyone feels anxious from time to time. But not everyone can control their anxiety and feelings to keep on functioning and dealing with situations as they usually would.
An anxiety disorder is the most common mental illness in college students. The disorder is different from the usual anxiety or nervousness people feel now and then. It can be described as a group of mental illnesses that cause stress, fear, and panic within a person. Eventually, everyday life becomes burdensome and overwhelming.
A very anxious person can have a hard time coping or focusing on important things. Here are some types of anxiety disorders that threaten mental health for college students.
- Generalized anxiety disorder – constant worrying, tiredness, inability to focus, feeling overwhelmed, nervous, tensed, and on edge.
- Social anxiety disorder – inability to act, feel, or think appropriately around others because of constant feelings of being judged, awkward, embarrassed, and self-conscious.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – excessive worrying about either counting, correcting, perfecting, obsession, or bringing order to things in a compulsive manner.
Some more types of anxiety disorders affecting college student mental health are the following:
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
- medication or substance-induced anxiety disorder;
- phobias like claustrophobia and agoraphobia.
Scientists aren’t sure how anxiety disorders exactly occur within a person. However, they suppose these factors play a crucial role:
- brain chemistry;
- physical illnesses;
- traumatic events;
- social factors;
- an individual’s personality;
- significant injuries.
A BPD or bipolar disorder is one of the mental health issues college students find hard to combat. It is characterized by varying degrees of manic or depressive states without choice or warning. Its cause isn’t confirmed to any single component or reason yet. However, just like other significant mental health issues, it is closely related to an individual’s biological, chemical, personal, and social factors.
When a manic or depressive state kicks in, it can go on for a few days, weeks, or months. These are known as episodes. A manic episode can include
- increased energy, motivation, happiness, and euphoria;
- restlessness and an inability to be still;
- decreased need for rest or sleep;
- sudden boost in productivity, power, and feelings of invincibility.
The very definition of a bipolar state implies that there will also be a harsh low after such an incredible high.
A depressive episode can be excruciating to encounter and can include
- complete loss of motivation;
- noticeable increase in anxiety, depression, and stress;
- inability to focus;
- extremely low levels of energy;
- constant exhaustion.
A college student mental health survey can help identify individuals with BPD. Those who show signs of BPD should seek professional help. The best way to deal with the extremities of it is through psychotherapy and medication.
Suicide, even as prevalent thoughts, results from experiencing the effects of different types of mental illnesses over an extended period.
A lot of reports and studies around the world have proven a link between mental health issues among college students and suicide. The American Psychiatric Association stated that suicide completion rates in patients with bipolar disorder might be as high as 10 – 15 percent. Therefore, regular assessments are crucial for student well-being.
The toll of dealing with mental illnesses is too high. This does not mean that people facing mental health problems are weak; they are rather victims of helplessness. If people could get help in managing their disorders, several cases of suicide could have been prevented.
Because of the significant number of those suffering from mental illnesses, especially young adults, the overall risk of going through such situations in college also increases. Thus, educational institutions everywhere take the mental well-being of students very seriously.
Rates of depression have steeply grown over the years. The prevalence of this mental illness in college can also be seen through an overall increase in the sales and use of psychotropic medication as treatment and preventive measures. Depression is a severe mental health issue. If left untreated, it can lead to a variety of other significant health and well-being-related issues.
As the name suggests, depressive disorder can be described as an experience of slumping through life because of prolonged loss of interest, lack of motivation, and lack of energy. In a broader picture, it can look like a person wants to be left alone at all times. They do not like associating too much, speaking too much, or doing things that require too much excitement or energy. They may also seem sad, pensive, and withdrawn.
Educational institutions should pay more attention to the stress and mental health of college students. On the other hand, keeping oneself occupied and enjoying the educational journey as much as possible can help avoid experiencing depression during college.
The interrelation between colleges and mental health problems is pretty obvious. Students around the world tend to experiment with various types of substances during their time in college. But those dealing with underlying mental issues might struggle to draw the line between recreation and dependency. They may also start using various substances to ease academic pressure or cope with any worries in life.
Once they fall under the regular influence, it may be challenging for students to give up on their habits. Slowing down gives them withdrawal symptoms, which can make it even harder. They also develop intense cravings to satisfy their addiction and often become distracted or frustrated when they don’t get enough.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that the death of over 1,500 college students each year is linked to alcohol abuse. It also showed that alcohol is linked to approximately 696,000 assaults and 97,000 sexual assault or date rape cases each year. This is a serious issue.
To avoid this mental illness among college students, colleges should
- understand the problem’s route;
- promote better habits and routines among students;
- encourage better nutrition;
- design precise goals to help students overcome addiction.
Most mental illnesses begin to target different body areas and manifest into additional physical or psychological problems. In most cases, issues with mental health college students encounter disrupt their eating habits and routines. An individual’s desire and motivation in life may be so low that they do not feel like eating at all. Otherwise, they could start eating a lot more than usual to suppress any negative emotions.
A situation may be deemed an eating disorder when eating habits become unhealthy and dangerous to one’s well-being. The most prevalent types of such disorders are
- anorexia nervosa;
- binge eating.
Eating disorders are most commonly developed during adolescence. As statistics have shown, they can affect more females than males.
Eating disorders can be prevented by paying more attention to the mental health needs of college students. In particular, students should take active steps in improving their self-image and self-worth. Low self-esteem often makes people engage in harmful behaviors.
What Is Causing the College Student Mental Health Crisis?
Although many reports and studies have shown that the mental health of college students has been declining, we need to realize that this is actually part of a much bigger problem faced by young adults and society as a whole. However, during college, students can face several added triggers depending on their situation and choices.
Here are some reasons that are causing mental illness in college students.
- Financial issues can put students in great distress. Students who come from underprivileged families, have educational loans, and lack money for daily needs are more at risk of developing mental illnesses.
- College life for many can turn into a race to succeed. College students are young adults preparing themselves for life. The overall energy can often turn into a highly competitive one, which may cause changes in behaviors.
- Increased use of technology and social media can exacerbate the situation. Today’s college students are exposed to a lot more than ever before. The number of choices has significantly gone up, and there is a lot of information about many things. This can often create confusion and lead to problematic behavior.
- Inability to cope with stress in a healthy way. Some college students may already have a lower bandwidth than others when dealing with anxiety, pressure, and stress. Some may adopt such habits through bad experiences and behavior patterns.
Luckily, the stigma around mental health illnesses has significantly reduced. Today, people are increasingly reaching out to seek help to understand and treat their condition. Mental health programs for college students serve to prevent related disorders and improve student well-being.
The Mental Health Needs of Today’s College Students: Challenges and Recommendations
Mental health among college students is a vast and highly dynamic subject. Therefore, the steps to prevent and solve mental health issues in college students also should be versatile and practical.
Here are some of the challenges.
- The global COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has left students everywhere stranded. The fear of the virus and studying remotely has worsened the mental health situation for students.
- Increased dependence on recreational substances. The number of students who consume intoxicating substances during college is already high. But as research data suggests, these numbers do not seem to be decreasing anytime soon.
- Biological, genetic, health, and social factors. Some factors simply cannot be avoided and overlooked. Learning new skills can be very difficult for those with inherent biological issues or individuals with childhood trauma.
- Overreliance on online communication. Because students cannot go to college and meet with each other in person, they make up for it by spending more time online. Some of them may prefer to live online rather than face real life.
College Students: Mental Health Problems and Treatment Considerations
- Creating and encouraging safer online spaces. Because students are spending more time online, they should learn more about how it can impact their overall well-being. Educational institutions should provide mental health tips for college students, especially those studying remotely. Discussions around the importance of using safer spaces online where students can improve their knowledge are vital.
- Making mental health a regular part of student discourse. Every college curriculum should make space for providing students with education in mental health. Moreover, they can organize regular mental health check in questions for students. When institutions implement taking a mental health questionnaire for college students, they can identify problems and help struggling individuals on time.
- Normalizing breaks or days off to avoid burnout. Such emotional problems of college students as anxiety, pressure, or stress result from the excessive academic load. They need to be more aware of their physical, mental, and emotional well-being to avoid burnout or developing illnesses.
- Improving college culture. Adults should take steps so that the problems they or their peers went through during college do not affect the next generation. College authorities should always devise better plans for student health and safety.