The Importance of Mental Health in College Students

The Importance of Mental Health in College Students
Picture of Nayreth Garcia

Nayreth Garcia

Content Writer At Gradehacker

The transition of going to college can be hard for many students. Returning or beginning college, especially as a non-traditional student where you have other responsibilities, can be terrifying. Many people do not understand this and do not give enough attention to the importance of mental health in college students.

Not everyone deals with their emotions in the same way, so maybe it is easier for your friend, but it is a struggle for you. Do not feel bad; you are not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 75% of all mental health conditions begin before 24.

stressed man

Here at Gradehacker, we are experts at ensuring that a non-traditional student’s college experience is as seamless as possible. Since we know how stressful being a non-traditional college student can be, this article was created to recognize and give your mental health the importance it needs. 

Sometimes it’s necessary to take a pause in your life and start asking yourself, “Am I okay?” “Do I need help?” “What can I do to feel better?” “Why is my friend behaving like that?”

According to a report by Penn State University’s Center for Collegiate Mental Health, college students’ counseling center utilization across the U.S. increased by an average of 30-40%. In comparison, enrollment increased only by 5%.

The most common mental health challenges students can face in college are depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction and suicide. In this article, we’ll help you identify, recognize, and show you different ways to overcome it.

What is Mental Health?

To understand the importance of it, you must be clear on the concept. Mental Health refers to what we feel and our emotions, what we think with those emotions, and how we face life’s situations. 

In college, it is normal to feel overwhelmed, but having good mental health will help you handle stress, the way you make decisions, and how you socially relate to others.

Your mental health is not determined by any unique reason. Many factors such as life experiences (traumas or abuse) can be affected by a family history of mental health problems, your environment, and biological factors such as genes or brain chemistry.

Most common mental health problems:

1. Depression:

Depression is a mood disorder where you can feel a sense of persistent sadness, hopelessness, and the loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy. People who suffer depressive episodes may also experience mood swings, insomnia, appetite changes, and pains with no apparent physical cause.

Depression Symptoms:

Symptoms for depression are different in every person. Remember that depression results from a chemical imbalance in our brains, so maybe the way you show signs of it is not necessarily the same way other people can reflect it. According to the American Psychological Association, some symptoms of depression could be: 

Depressed Woman

You need to know that these symptoms do not necessarily mean that you are depressed. However, if you experience them with regularity, you should seek assistance.

Identifying these issues in others can be tricky, especially as college students are more likely to never talk about things deeply bothering them due to insecurity, fear of standing out, or embarrassment. That’s why it’s important to create mental health education and stop seeing it as a minor problem.

Recognizing the signs of depression in yourself and friends:

What can you do to help yourself or others?

It’s important that as a friend, you show words of encouragement, and they see you as a support in college life. Please, avoid saying phrases like “just cheer up” or “snap out of it.” If you don’t find the right words, just listen to them. Many people experiencing depression are aware of their condition, and telling them to get over it is not helpful. 

If you or any of your friends are in this situation, search for professional help, assist your student health center or book a doctor’s appointment. If you have any doubts, here are some websites especially directed to college students where you can check for help:

2. Anxiety

Experiencing anxiety is way more normal than what you think. However, it can develop more easily in college students since the amount of stress, pressure, and persistent feelings of worry and panic about their lives is part of their day-to-day lives. When you can relate to all of the above and more, anxiety is likely to become a medical condition.

In 2016, a Pennsylvania State University study was published stating that  61% of survey respondents identified anxiety as a leading student mental health issue.

Anxiety Mental Disorder – Portrait of a Troubled Woman.

Anxiety Symptoms:

You must be careful since sometimes anxiety may be mistaken for everyday stress or simply worrying too much. It depends on how your body responds to increased levels of certain chemicals, and panic attacks are a part of it.

 Like depression, the symptoms of anxiety manifest differently in each person. Some of them may be the following:

Specialists do not completely understand the causes of anxiety disorders, but it’s considered a combination of brain chemicals, genetics, and everyday stress.

Recognizing the signs of anxiety in yourself and friends:

As college students, you have to deal with a lot, so don’t confuse occasional flashes of anxious feelings, and be aware of how you or your friend’s behavior can be a signal to look for help if you notice the following things: 

What can you do to help yourself and others?

You need to avoid criticizing or underestimating your friend’s symptoms and encourage them to try different things that can be causing further anxiety. If you or any of your friends need treatment, the ADAA provides a list of affordable treatment plans and resources for students on campus.

Here you can find other organization resources for students with anxiety disorders:

3. Suicide

PLEASE KEEP IN MIND; if you or a person you know is in danger, contact 911. It’s important that anyone who may be suicidal get the help they need as fast as possible. A majority of college students who decide to take their lives have a diagnosable and treatable mental illness.

This is the most delicate subject of mental health importance in college students. Professionals in this area define a pattern of planning your death, a detailed mental health crisis.

According to a The Association of American Universities report, 20% of American college students reported suicidal ideas in 2018, and articles from 2019 of Los Angeles Times revealed that suicide rates among young Americans were at their highest-ever levels, showing that this crisis extends beyond campus and into society as a whole.

frustrated man

Symptoms for Suicide:

There are no specific symptoms of suicide. What is very common in suicidal people is that they talk about feeling trapped, as if they are unnecessary in others’ lives, and have no reason to go on. 

Recognizing the signs of suicidal thoughts in yourself and in your friends:

If you are concerned that a roommate or friend is suicidal, it is because students who are suicidal often communicate their intent to take their lives to those around them, so beware of signs of depression and do not take their actions lightly.

What can you do to help yourself and others?

There are many ways you can help. You can ask them directly, “Are you considering killing yourself?” Even though this can be hard, it would not increase their suicidal thoughts, but it will help you to prevent that step.

You can begin by removing objects that can be lethal, like knives, guns, blades, among others you consider a danger. Be there for them. Staying in contact makes a big difference, and you can potentially save their life.

Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number on your phone and, if possible, on your friend’s phone too.

You can find available resources through your on-campus student health center or the following organizations:

Friends consoling sad woman while sitting in art class

If you found yourself reading this article, you may recognize that you or a friend is having mental health issues. You need to be reminded that you need to contact a professional that will give you the help you need.

Returning to college campuses or stepping in for the first time as a non-traditional student can affect you in a significant way, especially if you had a previous mental health problem, do not feel embarrassed in search of help when it comes to this subject.

Creating mental health awareness has been a fight that has taken huge strides over the last ten years. Our world is in constant change, and being forced to adapt to those changes being a college student is not easy at all.

You need to know that in the United States, there are federal and state laws that forbid colleges and universities from discriminating against students experiencing mental health issues, according to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Mental Health is important in every stage of your life. However, when you assist a university and start dealing with high levels of stress, it can become a major problem that will severely affect your behavior and academic performance even if it is not tended to.

Remember, you are not alone, talk to friends and family about your problems, do not be afraid or embarrassed to look for help. There are a lot of platforms willing to offer support whenever you need it.

If you are concerned that a roommate or friend is suicidal, it is because students who are suicidal often communicate their intent to take their lives to those around them, so beware of signs of depression and do not take their actions lightly.

Woman with mental problem

You are important. You will always matter.

If you want to continue reading about our college resource articles, you can check the next ones: