For young adults, college is the time of self-discovery and learning. However, this is also the very period where some suffer emotional instability. When left uncared for, this can pose serious physical consequences.
In 2019, the American College Health Association stated that over the past year, 87 percent of college students claimed they felt very depressed and that it was extremely difficult for them to function. 66% said their anxiety is overwhelming, 56% were hopeless, and 13% are seriously contemplating suicide.
Some of the contributing factors include traumatic and distressing issues during college, like assaults and bullying, in addition to the pressure of dealing with one’s academic demands.
However, a student’s present college experience is not the only known factor. Some students already have preexisting mental health concerns even before they go to college. Around 80% of college students had, at some point, thought about it before they entered college.
No matter how fulfilling and rewarding the whole college life may be, students need to endure the many struggles that go along with it.
Sadly, not everyone is mentally strong in dealing with the pressure of college life. Many college students have to go through several mental health challenges and eventually find themselves at the point of losing it.
To keep that from happening, here are some of the most common mental health challenges that you will face as a college student and some proactive ways on how you can overcome them.
The Oxford Dictionary defines anxiety as “a feeling of nervousness, worry, and unease about something with an uncertain outcome.” Of course, everybody feels this way at some point. This is relatively normal until anxiety starts to overcome your mental health.
Once it starts to dominate your state of mind, this can be very dangerous. Because of an abrupt lifestyle change, a handful of responsibilities, or never-ending school projects and tasks, college students may often end up feeling anxious in its worst form.
The most common signs of anxiety include:
- Feeling restless
- Feeling tense and nervous
- Rapid breathing and trembling
- Heart rate increase
- Feeling endangered and afraid
You can deal with anxiety in two ways, depending on how far it has come.
- On your own. If your anxiety is not that alarming and is relatively smart but still causes you some minor issues, you can simply deal with it yourself. Identify the cause of your anxiety at first. Then remove those causes and battle them with common sense.
- Professional help. If you believe your anxiety has significantly interfered with your emotional well-being, academic performance, task accomplishments, or your social life, seeking professional help is the solution. Visit a doctor or a mental health provider since these professionals are trained to help you overcome your anxiety and lead you to become yourself again.
Once in a while, it’s okay to feel disappointed, sad, anxious, or a mix of these emotions. These are natural emotions that manifest when you have a bad day or when you are under an emotional period of your life, or when something unexpected happens.
But the moment these emotions last longer and start to influence your daily life for long greatly, you might end up feeling depressed. Among college students, depression incidence rates are normally 7-9%.
The symptoms of college depression are:
- Feeling down and sad all the time
- Pessimistic tendencies
- Loss of interest
- Feeling empty
- Suicidal thoughts
- Binging or loss of appetite
- Too much sleeping or insomnia
Depression is an extremely serious mental condition that should be treated by professionals. In case you have these signs above, there’s no need to panic.
However, it helps to immediately seek the help of professionals so you can overcome depression quickly. Go to your doctor and discuss your problem. He should be able to walk you through the whole process of dealing with this mental concern.
If you think sleeping disorders are nothing more than just minor lifestyle practice concerns, think again. Sleep disorders, also called insomnia, are a serious concern that damage your physical health and your mental status.
Sleeping disorders can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Decrease in concentration
- Unclear thinking
- Bad coordination
- Decrease in concentration
According to the Harvard Medical School, 40 percent of college students in the US get enough rest only twice per week, while only 11% get ample sleep. These figures are indeed alarming. So many college students are struggling with sleeping disorders
What are the causes of sleeping disorders?
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Improper study habits
- Substance abuse
- Absence of sleeping schedule
To overcome insomnia, you should learn how to take control of thoughts and emotions. You have to target living a healthier lifestyle. Other ways to help you with your insomnia bouts include:
- Setting up a fixed sleeping schedule and religiously sticking to it
- Eating healthy foods
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and other addictive substances
- Meditating, exercising, and working on your mental health
While dealing with insomnia greatly relies on how determined you are to deal with it, there are still possibilities of you failing to succeed. It’s wise to seek professional help. Never ignore your sleeping disorder because it will not easily go away.
The National Eating Disorders Association asserts that eating disorders hold the highest mortality rates of all types of psychiatric illnesses. Because of peer pressure, drastic lifestyle changes, and other mental health issues, college students sometimes risk developing several forms of eating disorders. The most severe forms include:
- Obsessive over one’s weight and body image
Eating disorders pose immense health risks and consequences like:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Risk of heart failure
- Dizziness and fainting
- Weakened intestines
- Kidney failure
- Hormonal imbalance
Eating disorders cause your overall health to deteriorate severely! If you notice these symptoms or you know someone showing them, never hesitate to seek help. Early detection of the disorders can do a lot. Talk to your doctor or get in touch with your school’s helpline.
The moment you realize an eating disorder is starting to eat you, start fighting it. Understanding the ways to overcome them is very important.
Mental Health in College: What the Schools Can Do
Because of the staggering increase of college students with mental health concerns, some colleges add counseling staff to meet the growing demands for counseling centers. However, this might still be not enough. Students should find other alternate means other than on-campus counseling centers.
That is why schools should take a more proactive approach to equip their students with the right practices in dealing with their mental health issues. Through this approach, fewer students will likely need immediate crisis services, and those that need them can get them sooner.
To help improve college students’ general mental health, here are some of the major areas that colleges should focus on.
- Empower the students. Colleges should guide their students to assess their overall resilience and strengths. When students are empowered with the right knowledge about mental health, they can easily pinpoint problems early on and immediately access resources when needed. Schools should encourage and motivate their students in closely monitoring their progress. One of the most effective media is an online portal where students can access tools like skills development, mindfulness, career reflection, or time management.
- Provide resources about stress management. Colleges and universities must come up with tools and processes to improve a student’s ability to manage stress. For example, a decision tree can help students identify where and when they should reach out for help with their concerns. Web-based portals also work wonders, especially when students can easily locate on-campus support services like counselors, coaches, advisers, skill-building groups, or peer-to-peer education.
- Put preventive measures in place. When you take precautionary measures like helping students lower their risks, it substantially improves the greater population over time. With that, colleges must practice prudence in knowing what contributes to a student’s stress in the first place: discrimination, substance abuse, pressure in academics, assaults. There should be early interventions to help students deal with stress and better improve their mental health.
- Create wellness campaigns. Creating wellness campaigns also help mitigate mental health. Faculty, staff, and students should altogether be trained in how everyone can collectively work to improve everybody’s mental health on the campus. The school should publicize their initiatives and visions so that everyone will get the message.
10 Mental Health Tips for College Students for Focus and Productivity
While you are in college, taking care of your mental health as you work your way towards earning a degree is essential. That way, you can accomplish your school responsibilities in school. Ignoring your mental health can cause several issues that may result in derailing your focus, productivity, and total performance in school.
Here are ten of the most helpful tips you should practice to keep your mental health at bay while in university.
1. Get enough sleep.
Enough sleep enables your brain to assist your body in healing itself from the daily stressors in college. Because of too many activities for so little time, most college students fail to get the ideal 8-hour-per night sleep.
Without enough rest, it results in feeling worn out, tired, and overwhelmed. Understand that without enough sleep, your body won’t be able to produce dopamine, serotonin, and other helpful chemicals that keep anxiety, depression, and stress away.
To get the recommended daily sleep, make sure all your devices are turned off. The energy and light that comes from your television, computer, or phone triggers your mind to stay awake.
2. Surround yourself with and build a support network.
Any college student should have a solid support network. The confusion, the stress, the overwhelming academic, and workload will eventually wear you out over time. Thus it’s best to have a strong support system that includes family members, friends, professors, resident advisors, counselors, and anybody else that you know can help you succeed in college.
Ideally, assign a role for each person in your network. For instance, call your friend for some friendly talk after you had a bad afternoon in class, or calling your mom just to hear her soothing voice over the phone every time you’re homesick, or even sending an email to your college professor when you feel so overwhelmed with never-ending assignments.
3. Stay away from alcohol and drugs.
So many college students believe that college is all about partying. And with these college parties, it’s safe to assume drugs and alcohol will always come into the picture. However, you can have fun at a college party sans the use of alcohol and drugs. You don’t have to have these substances just to have a good time and meet new friends. These are not needed to relax.
Alcohol and drugs, in reality, keep you from achieving a relaxed state. Instead, these substances create and not solve problems. The negative outcomes can last for days. When you stay away from these substances, you can prevent hangovers. No hangovers mean no tardiness (or even absences) in class, no sleeping problems, and no worries.
You can find so many sober activities inside the campus. Some schools even have peer mentors and sober groups if you need their help to avoid joining party scenes.
4. Get in touch with a campus counselor.
Some students may find it awkward to check in with their school’s counselor, but this tip is a game-changer. Over the years, counseling has always been a very sensitive topic. It was used to create a stigma that doesn’t sit well, especially among young college teens. Thankfully, college students are starting to recognize its many benefits, and the ignominy has gradually reduced.
When you meet with your campus counselor or any counselor within your community, you learn a lot about stress management techniques. You will learn to manage your mental health issues triggered by certain situations, such as keeping calm before an exam.
The best part about counseling is that you are provided with a set time just for you. During the allotted period, you can air your gripes to someone who will listen and protect your confidentiality. A counselor provides you with objective advice and walks you through proper goal setting and time management.
5. Be active.
The more you exercise, the happier your mood gets. When you are physically active, your body releases ‘happy hormones” like dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These chemicals have long been proven to suppress pain, boost your mood, and gives you a rewarding feeling.
While busy with your college life, always find time to stick to an exercise routine. It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekly trip to the gym or a thirty-minute daily walk. The goal is to exercise. Not only will this help improve your mood but also, getting active helps you to get better sleep, more energy, and a sharper concentration.
6. Eat healthily.
What you put in your body generally affects your mood. The chemicals that regulate your mood like anger, happiness, depression, and anxiety live both in your body and brain. Meaning, the healthier your food intake is, the better regulated your mood becomes. As a result, your body will release the necessary chemicals to make you feel good.
7. Quiet your mind.
Meditation is a very effective way to deal with mental stress. Mindfulness and relaxation exercises help you improve your outlook on life and state of mind. Research has proven how meditation can help you enhance your mind and make you feel calm.
8. Learn to value yourself.
No matter the stress, the pressure, the confusion, and all the challenging things you encounter during college, always value yourself. Treat yourself with respect and kindness and the time, making sure not to criticize yourself if you don’t meet what is expected of you.
Find the time for your hobbies, start a garden, finish your crossword puzzle, or learn a new language. You have an endless list of positive distractions from your college woes!
9. Practice dealing with stress.
Whether you like it or not, stress is a part of our daily lives. While you cannot avoid it generally, you can practice coping mechanisms. Exercise, take one-minute stress strategies, go for a nature walk, do some Tai Chi, write a journal, or even play with a pet. There is so much more to your college journey than stressing over missed deadlines. Always remember to smile and find the good in everything.
10. Reward yourself.
Reaching the goals you set, recognizing your true worth and value, and accomplishing even the most difficult tasks are just some of the many things you are doing a perfectly good job. Buying yourself good stuff, playing a video game you really enjoy, or patting yourself on the back after a challenging work is a very healthy way to help you loosen up.
When you reward yourself, you validate that you have done something good and that you deserve such a reward. Feeling confident and proud even on your progress helps you feel more energized and determined to go on with the tough journey of college life.
Understanding Depression and College Students: Knowing the Early Signs
The National Network of Depression Centers (NNDC) says that depression is the number one cause of disability in Americans between ages 15 and 44. This mental disorder has affected almost 7% of the total US population. Apart from the negative effects on an individual, depression and other mental health issues may result in billions of dollars in losses to the economy annually.
During college, anxiety and stress are very rampant. So how will college students tell when what they are going through are signs of something more? Here are signs that you are having experiencing depression.
- Constant feeling of sadness. Feeling sad or low is generally normal at some time. But if you notice that you feel sad at every waking hour of the day, you may be having depression.
- Disconnected from feelings. Dr. Michael Alcee, a clinical psychologist with more than a decade of intensive experience in college counseling, said that you could easily tell that students are depressed when they begin to have that feeling of despair, hopelessness, apathy, and disconnection from their feelings.
- No interest in the outside world. When a student has depression, he tends to push down on his feelings. He can no longer appreciate the color of the outside world, and that he feels like the world is starting to run day.
- Troubles in focusing. Students suffering from depression feel like everything is all-consuming. Even when making decisions, submitting assignments, or even writing papers, they tend to keep their focus away from what truly matters. They may be physically present, but mentally they’re not.
- Guilt feeling. Those who experience depression are aware of how others perceive their behaviors. However, they tend to feel hopeless to make even the slightest change. This results in an overwhelming feeling of guilt about the “burden” they put on their family, friends, peers, or professors.
- Constant body aches. It’s normal to occasionally have body aches or headaches, especially when you are swamped with so many college activities. But for those who have depression, these physical symptoms don’t go away. Usual remedies like over-the-counter pain relievers won’t work anymore.
- Lazy to get out of bed. Another telltale sign of a student suffering from chronic depression is the feeling of laziness. When you are depressed, you refuse to get out of bed and face the world outside. You refuse to fulfill your obligations for a longer period.
- Insomnia. If you notice that you are having a hard time going to sleep- or when you are asleep, you have a hard time keeping it that way, then you are surely suffering from depression.
- Feeling like you’re useless. When students think they serve no purpose and won’t be missed when they’re gone, they might be severely depressed! If you feel this way, or you know anyone starting to manifest suicidal tendencies, call for help immediately.
Getting Help for Depression and other Mental Health Issues in College
The National Alliance on Mental Health said that while 73% of college students have experienced mental health issues on campus, around 34% of these reported that their college was not aware of it.
Many students suffering from depression don’t know where to seek help. Neither are they aware of how they can manage their symptoms. Thankfully, you can find different resources both on and off-campus that can help.
Where to Get Help OFF-CAMPUS
- JED Foundation. This is a national nonprofit organization that aims to minimize the number of suicides by college students drastically. For immediate help with mental health issues, you can text “START” and send to 741-741, or better yet, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Mastering College Stress and Anxiety. This is Ohio University’s organization that guides college students with symptoms of depression or anxiety disorders and are in dire need of helpful but practical steps to restore their mental health status.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For students suffering from extreme emotional distress, you can call 1-800-273-TALK 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can receive guidance and support from the org’s trained professionals.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Hotline. This hotel is open from 8 AM to 8 PM EST every day. Students may call the national helpline number 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
- Student Veterans of America. College students who are also military veterans can sometimes deal with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and other forms of depression and anxiety. SVA has national support systems and campus-based resources that can help students dealing with depression.
Where to Get Help ON-CAMPUS
- Active Minds. This is a national mental health nonprofit organization that has chapters in universities and colleges throughout the country. They are there to help empower students to speak about their challenges in college life openly.
- Campus Counseling Center. The need for more mental health professionals has increased significantly. Some colleges now bring on more psychiatrists and psychologists to meet these important needs. Double-check if your school has these counseling services.
- National Alliance on Mental Health. NAMI has several chapters on various college campuses. This organization aims at raising awareness of issues in mental health. They also advocate for services and help college students find relevant resources.
Treatments for Depression
When talking about treating depression, there are numerous avenues for that. All of these have to be thoroughly discussed with a professional before you take any action. Here are the most common ones:
- Psychotherapy. College students can successfully manage the mental health issues they are going through so long as they often speak to a trained professional and discuss their feelings and symptoms. Types of psychotherapy include cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.
- Neuromodulation. This form of therapy uses magnetic or electrical currents to alter and stimulate brain activities. It has long been used to treat specific cases of depression efficiently.
- Medication. You can find several types of antidepressants today to treat a wide spectrum of issues surrounding depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
What Can Colleges Do to Address Mental Health Issues among College Students?
Most universities and colleges today understand how depression affects many students. Many of them are taking steps in creating programs and plans designed for students going through mental health issues. Below are some proactive ways colleges are making to help fight student depression.
- Grief Support Groups. Furman University came up with a six-week coffee talk called “Life After Loss” after discovering a surge increase of students suffering depression because of loss, tragedy, and other factors that led them to depression. This program gathers students to freely share their stories and find common ground among the other participants. From there, they develop positive ways of dealing with mental health issues.
- Online Therapy. Recently, Davidson University, in partnership with Therapy Assistance Online, launched a program aimed at helping students suffering from less severe depression. Students needing this program has to meet with an on-campus counselor for a consultation initially. After this, an interactive online therapy program follows for further support.
- Nutrition and Wellness Centers. Studies have proven that diets with high sugar content can contribute to bouts of depression and lead to a sedentary lifestyle. That is why some universities are taking this study seriously and putting it to use by making nutrition and wellness centers. These centers are designed to help students positively control their nutrition and support proper brain health. One school that has this program at St. Olaf College.
- Recovery Houses. Substance abuse is another reason why some college students go through depression. Others even drop out of school. Knowing that this is a problem that has surrounded colleges and universities for so long already, Rutgers University came up with the very first substance abuse recovery house. Students dealing with these issues can live on campus and receive the proper treatment without leaving college.
- Pet Therapy. Did you know that interacting with animals can substantially improve a student’s well-being? It can even minimize the inevitable feelings of homesickness. Today, there’s a handful of colleges that have introduced pet therapy programs like Kent State University.
Here is a list of the colleges and universities that have received the JedCampus Seal of Distinction from Jed Foundation. These schools are duly recognized because of their outstanding services for mental health.
Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues have increasingly become prevalent among college students these days.
Most students even say their mental health problems are among the biggest barriers to performing well in school. It is then critical for colleges to provide the needed resources to help students deal with the challenges that go with college life.