Education provides us with knowledge, skills, and training that helps us survive and thrive in the world. However, college is also a time of confusion and uncertainty for many. Like the concept of “adulthood,” once a person becomes a college student, they are expected to instantly change who they are. There is a sudden increase in responsibility and expectations, and the change in skills and behavior is often not enough to catch up. It is unsurprising that, as a result, college student mental health crisis have increased over time. Before discussing the research about mental health and students, let us try to understand this condition better.
What Is A College Student Mental Health Crisis?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental health crisis occurs when someone acts in a way that “puts them at risk of hurting themselves or others or prevents them from being able to care for themselves or function in the community.” Behaviors that can be included in this definition are:
–lack of adequate self-care,
-lifestyle choices leading to poor physical and mental health,
-self-injury(emotional or physical), etc.
College Students: Mental Health Facts And Issues
A review article by Justin Hunt, M.D. extensively covers issues in mental health and students. According to the 2008 National College Health Assessment, 1 in 3 undergraduates felt “too depressed to function,” and approximately 1 in 10 considered “seriously attempting suicide.”
Male undergraduates are more vulnerable to suicide, whereas females are likely to suffer from major depressive and anxiety disorders. Many medical conditions like these will likely go untreated and undiagnosed until later in life.
Data revealed by the American Psychological Association(APA) also affirmed that mental health on campus only worsens. However, the awareness and implementation of good mental health practices on campus are also increasing. The facts highlighted were as follows:
-During 2020-21, more than 60% of students met the criteria for at least one mental health issue.
-In a national survey, 75% of students reported moderate to severe levels of mental distress.
-Students taking help from counseling services on the campus have increased by 40% between 2009 and 2015
-Peer counseling, workshops, and other interventions can creatively fulfill the mental health needs of students. As a result, the reliance on professional counselors or individual therapy is decreasing.
-Faculty can be more sensitive to student needs and feelings, leading to early detection of a college student facing a mental health crisis.
Now that you learned about the facts and statistics regarding a college student mental health crisis, let’s look at the causes of such conditions.
Causes Of College Student Mental Health Crisis
The causes of anxiety and other mental illness in students can include the following:
-The human brain does not fully develop or mature till the mid-20s. Hence, students may feel overwhelmed when faced with challenging life decisions.
-Being in an unfamiliar environment, either due to moving out or being involved with a new peer group, provides students with new challenges.
-Due to busy schedules and excessive demands from work and social life, students may suffer from prolonged sleep-deprivation. Sleeplessness leads to more significant anxiety and depressive symptoms, as shown in a study by KA Babson.
-The modern college student suffers an excess of choices, all accompanied by their risks and pitfalls. Due to said uncertainty, many students have to deal with negative, anxious thoughts.
-For students who leave home for the first time, the world can feel daunting, relentless, and uncertain. Old peers and parents, who were once an emotional safety net, cannot be relied on anymore.
Most Common College Student Mental Health Crisis
According to a survey published in the APA, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems are among the most common college student mental health crisis. Anxiety affects 41.6%, depression 36.4%, and relationship issues 35.8% of students. While there have been many efforts to promote mental wellness, 19% of directors report that their institution’s psychiatric services are inadequate.
What Mental Illness Is Most Common Among College Students?
According to a study by Paola P., anxiety is the most common mental illness in college students. Approximately 11.9% of students suffer from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is an emotion that involves anticipation of a threat, leading to the activation of a “flight vs. fight response” in your body. It can impair a student from neutrally observing their environment and making the right decisions for themselves. This condition can also cause increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, feelings of emotional exhaustion, tiredness, nervousness, and an inability to sit still.
Now that you have learned about anxiety, let us shed some light on how depression(the second most common mental health crisis) affects college students.
What Is The Leading Cause Of Depression In College Students?
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by prolonged low mood and no motivation to do anything. We commonly refer to forms of sadness and low mood as depression. However, this is a severe, clinically recognized issue that requires proper care and mental health treatment to recover from. Dealing with depression for any college student is a mental health crisis.
Like any significant health issue, it is difficult to pinpoint a single factor as the cause of depression in college students. That being said, a combination of lack of sleep, poor dietary habits(such as consuming bad foods), and inadequate exercise undoubtedly contribute to depression in college students. Other lifestyle choices, such as workaholism, substance abuse, and relationship issues, can lead to the same.
Know When To Seek Help
If you know a college student undergoing mental health crisis, firstly, it is necessary to motivate and make them aware of different sources to seek help. These can include ideas for building confidence, uplifting mood, increasing low self-esteem, etc. It is best to visit a licensed professional, but peer therapy, workshops, and counseling sessions can also aid recovery.
How To Overcome College Student Mental Health Crisis?
Now that we’ve learned what a college student mental health crisis is like let us review the steps you can take to recover and prevent such issues.
1. Taking Adequate Care Of Your Physical Health
As mentioned above, poor sleep, dietary or lifestyle habits, and exercise can lead to physical and mental issues. However, this also means that eating the right foods, exercising regularly, getting enough physical activity, and having a quality sleep can help you feel healthier, happier, and more alive. An active body paves the way to a healthy mind, decreasing the risk of college student mental health crisis.
2. Know When To Stop
Issues in mental health and students can stem from cultural expectations. For instance, students everywhere are pushed to strive for their best and learn how to get comfortable being uncomfortable. There is nothing wrong with this action. But you need to identify for yourself how much is too much. A general rule of thumb states that if you can be more productive and innovative after a rest or a small nap, you should take a while to recharge. Of course, there are times when social demands make it difficult for you to do so. In that case, relax whenever you get the chance.
3. Remember That You Come First
While there may be people who hold precious, such as your peers, loved ones, significant other, or superiors, it is essential to remember that you come first. This step includes various aspects of life but fundamentally refers to setting rigid boundaries. You can set these boundaries by deciding what you are okay and not okay with. Remember that you have the right to your time, energy, and resources, before anyone else. Ironically, these actions can make your relationship with yourself and others more rewarding and benefit those around you.
A college student mental health crisis can harm you and those around you in multiple ways. Anxiety, depression, and relationship problems are among the most common conditions. These problems can be caused by a lack of self-care(both physical and mental), boundary setting, and overwhelming conditions. It is the responsibility of both students and educators to increase awareness and support for such issues. For example, promoting therapy, counseling, and mental health workshops can help students become more informed and empowered to care for themselves. But one may not always have the necessary resources to maintain mental wellness without professional help. On that note, here are five affordable online therapy platforms to access anywhere.