Written by Claire Imber,
6 Minute Read
Medically reviewed by:
Conor O’Neill, PHD
Assoc. Director of Therapy
10 Minute Read
- During the 2020-2021 school year, more than 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem.
- University resources and other professional mental healthcare services can help students manage their mental health.
There are many reasons to be concerned about the mental health of students. While we at Brightside Health firmly believe that mental health is important for everyone students are facing a looming mental health crisis that must be discussed.
It is no secret that students of all ages face stressors and anxieties that often go unchecked and unaddressed, but it has become increasingly clear over the past few years that poor mental health is becoming endemic. According to the American Psychological Association “By nearly every metric, student mental health is worsening. During the 2020–2021 school year, more than 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem.”
With a potential crisis on the horizon, we wanted to look specifically at why mental health is important for college students, and what can be done to address the mental health issues that they face.
If you are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health concern, Brightside can help. Start with our free assessment today! If you are having a mental health crisis, or are having thoughts of self-harm, please utilize the resources at the bottom of this page, or simply dial 988.
Why are students at a mental health risk?
Stress and anxiety seem like a standard part of the college experience. From the time we are in high school, we are often told how important college is for our futures. We hear that exceptional grades are crucial to our future career goals. So often, the stress begins even before we arrive at class on the first day.
Students also may be facing an array of additional challenges that might include
- Living away from home for the first time
- Social pressures
- Peer pressure
The American Psychological Association explains that at present, “college students today are also juggling a dizzying array of challenges, from coursework, relationships, and adjustment to campus life to economic strain, social injustice, mass violence, and various forms of loss related to COVID-19.”
Add to this the fact that the timing of college coincides with a key age for brain development for young people. Boston University’s Sarah K Lipson says “College is a key developmental time; the age of onset for lifetime mental health problems also directly coincides with traditional college years—75 percent of lifetime mental health problems will onset by age 24,”
All of this means that, even before the pandemic era, colleges and universities were under pressure to provide mental health services. And they often fell short due to a lack of counseling center resources, or a lack of understanding of the mounting problem.
What can be done to help?
There is a drastic need for intervention in terms of the mental health of students. Here are a few ways we can all help (students included).
Mental Health Awareness
One of the most powerful ways to combat a mental health crisis is through awareness. Students and educators need to know what they should watch for and be aware of. In particular, it may be useful to look for signs of an anxiety disorder. These may include
- Excessive worry
- Unable to control panic
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or overthinking
- Muscle tension
- Sleep difficulties
Since depression is a frequently reported mental health concern for students, it’s a good idea to look for signs of depression such as
- Having little interest or pleasure in doing things
- Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
- Feeling tired or having little energy
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Feeling bad about yourself or feeling like a failure
- Trouble concentrating on things
- Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed, or being fidgety/restless
- Thoughts that you would be better off dead, or thoughts of hurting yourself
Awareness of mental health also extends to battling the stigmas about those who experience mental health disorders. The University of Utah reminds us that
“The ambient feeling of guilt around mental health issues can cause those suffering to avoid seeking professional help or even seeking comfort and understanding from their peers and loved ones. Shame or guilt around depression or any other mental health condition is as outdated as thinking you are weak or flawed for needing to wear glasses.”
Increased Resources for Mental Health for Students
Colleges and universities are already increasing resources to help this crisis, but those efforts can certainly increase. Counseling centers are vital for student mental health, but even so, As American Public Media reports, “Colleges are struggling to meet the surging demand for mental health services on campus, and some schools are wrestling with how much care they owe students.”
Also vital are more subtle resources like mental health days off from school. Excused absences for mental health days are important for students, as they promote rest and self-care.
In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has publically taken the stance that “Taking a sick day to manage one’s mental health shouldn’t be rare — it should be encouraged, without fear of stigma or discrimination. NAMI supports school policies that include both physical and mental health concerns as acceptable reasons for school absence, allowing students to better take care of all their health needs.”
And finally, students need access to professional mental health care, which may extend beyond the services that counseling centers can provide. Whether it’s the inclusion of mental health benefits in student health insurance, or the contracting of mental health professionals directly, there is certainly room to improve the mental health outcomes for students.
Brightside Health therapy and psychiatry remotely, helping students over the age of 18 get the help they need from the privacy of home.