We all know that college is a time of new experiences. College is really a test, it gives us a taste of the real world and at some points slaps us with reality. While going through college we learn a lot about ourselves that we didn’t know before, and one of those things is how well we can handle the stress of the real world. With the constant studying, assignments and impending due dates, college students commonly become overwhelmed and cannot handle the pressure of higher education. This can leads to mental health issues. Mental health is defined as “Emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices,” (1). Throughout college students will commonly test the limits of their mental health and will potentially end up pushing themselves to the point of developing a mental illness. It is important for students to understand the importance of taking care of their mental health and to know how to when it is time to seek help when they need it.
The most common mental health issues found in college students are suicide and depression, stress and anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and sleep disorders (2). There are many signs that can help determine mental health conditions before they worsen; unusual sleeping habits, low energy and ambition, change in hygiene habits, thoughts of harming yourself or others, as well as feelings of worthlessness, helpless or hopeless feelings, and changes in appetite. When these signs are experienced its best to reach out to a counselor or advisor to seek help before it gets too out of hand.
An anonymous professor at Clarke University explained that he thought the most strenuous part about being in college that affects mental health is students being on their own. He explained that parents are not teaching kids to function on their own before they are thrown into the complexity of college. He explained that as a parent it is their responsibility early on to teach children the basics of independence. When asked for advice on how to help students deal with the struggles of sustaining mental health he recommended analyzing your week. Most college students when mapping out their week have too much leisure time, do not spend enough time studying or doing homework. For example, if you have four hours of free time, spend two hours studying then play video games. He also said that students feed themselves negative thoughts, in which he provided a hand out which allows for an individual to assess or challenge the negative thoughts in order to prevent them from altering one’s mental health. One would believe that the drop out rate would be high considering the stress that college can put on one with mental health issues, and this professor agrees. He stated that between three and four years ago about 5-10 psychology majors dropped out at Clarke during the spring semester because of depression and anxiety disorders. As a college educator, he has seen students experience mental health issues first hand. In his experience he said the most common signs of mental health issues that he has seen consist of continuous absences from class, late work, previously stellar work to more poor-quality work and the physical appearance of the student is different, students have baggy eyes, poor complexion, look sloppy in overall appearance and lack overall hygiene.
Liz Schuler, a Clarke instructor believes that mental illness is seen as a stigma but has also seen the powerful affects of mental illness. She says that so far from her knowledge about 3 students have already dropped out this semester. What some may find surprising is that Clarke staff do not have to go through training to be informed about mental illness or how to help the students who are struggling.
Mental illness is a neglected topic that most individuals are unknowledgeable about. To those who deal with a mental illness, do not be afraid to reach out, college is a mess sometimes. You shouldn’t have to be. Your mental health is not a stigma, and you are not your mental illness.
By Alexis Decker`
2)“College Student Mental Health.” Psychology, http://www.learnpsychology.org/mental-health/.
1)“What Is Mental Health?” What Is Mental Health? | MentalHealth.gov,www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health.
Alexis–Great awareness article! I would also like to point out that student who find their academics suffering because of mental health concerns can use two other resources on campus–counseling and the MARC. I talk to students all of the time about the impacts on their work and if accommodations such as extended time testing or strategies such as periodic check in’s on work would be useful. There is no need to struggle through it on their own; we can help.