Mental Health Issues Experienced By College Students
Every year, over two million high school graduates embark on their journey to become college students. Armed with their newfound freedom, students are exposed to the stressors associated with higher education: rigorous coursework, new relationships, autonomy, financial pressures, balancing family responsibilities, etc. This stage in life is typically perceived as being exhilarating and carefree but, alarming statistics show a steady increase of depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders, and addiction present across college campuses nationwide (NAMI, 2019). The prevalence of these disorders are the highest recorded among college students and more students are utilizing their institutions’ mental health services than ever before (National Institute of Mental Health).
The pressures of today’s society are theorized to exacerbate these disorders among students. “We live in a culture that places importance on certain elements that are related to success including wealth, academic achievement, and job performance. Some educational programs are only available to students who obtain the highest scores in their fields.” (Red Oaks Recovery Center). This competitive atmosphere has both positive and negative consequences. A 2018 study noted that more than 60% of college students felt overwhelming anxiety, and 40% of students felt so depressed at some point during the previous 12 months it was difficult for them to function. Additionally, 12% of these students seriously considered suicide. Currently, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 18 to 24.
Despite the growing need for mental health services, many institutions of higher education struggle to meet the needs of their students. Rowan University, located in NJ, semester long has amassed multiple suicides over the last few years; there were three suicides reported during their 2019 fall semester. A student at the college published an article in the school’s paper, “The Wellness Center needs to step up.” The article highlighted the challenges she and her classmates encountered when attempting to utilize the mental health services on campus. She mentioned barriers such as charging a copay per visit, lengthy waitlists, and underperforming mental health programs. Another article published in The Philadelphia Inquirer stated that Harrisburg Area Community College, PA’s largest community college, has eliminated all on-campus mental health services for its students entirely. It’s imperative college students have mental health services available to them as they face one of the most vulnerable and critical developmental periods of their lives. As a mental health professional, it’s critical to advocate for positive change and empower students to seek the help they need.
If you are a college student, you should become familiar with your college/university’s mental health services. Discover programs, groups, and individualized services to know the options available if you experience distress, a crisis, or a difficult transition. If you are not able to access on-campus services because of crisis, waitlists, need for higher level of treatment, or other barriers to therapy, don’t wait to seek help. There are resources available if you are dealing with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. Council for Relationships has a team of therapists who specialize in treating depression and anxiety. For those dealing with suicidal thoughts, call the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 which is accessible 24/7, speak to someone, and get the support you need.