Kenna Gottschalk, Staff Writer
Becoming independent can put a big stress on college students. This transitional time may affect one’s life more than they realize. Their mental health could suffer consequences if students don’t have the knowledge or resources they need to take care of themselves. The number of college students that struggle with their mental health continues to grow, and college campuses need to take action to help students’ health.
Everyone will face stress, loss, anxiousness and countless other emotions in their lives, but depending on their mental health, will depend on how they are capable of handling, or not handling, these emotions. Colleges need to provide students with the resources they need to do this.
When I moved away to college there were adjustments I had to make that I had never considered. I was eight hours from home and more than eager to explore a new state all on my own. Independence is exciting but comes with responsibilities. Yes, it’s liberating to be able to say, “I can do what I want when I want,” but that comes at somewhat of a cost.
College students have to learn and almost perfect the art of coping, self-care and mental hygiene because now that they are on their own, they’re responsible for taking care of themselves. A new environment, schoolwork, possibly a job, nutrition, and the stress of life itself are all suddenly put onto a college student’s plate, and they have to balance it while also keeping themselves healthy.
Not all young adults are entirely sure of what is actually healthy for them and don’t always know how to identify their triggers, unhealthy habits, stressors, etc. This leads to
struggling with their mental health. There are steps that college campuses should be taking to help students make sure that they are caring for their mental health.
Teaching all campus members what a healthy mentality looks like will help both staff and students identify those that may need help. Campus members should be provided with ways to recognize signs of developing mental health problems. There should be opportunities to increase the awareness and management of mental health crises, including the risk of suicide or self-harm. Further, instruction should address the relationship between mental health, substance abuse and other negative coping behaviors, as well as the negative impact of stigma toward mental illness.
Psychologists state that, “By the age of 25 years, 75% of those who will have a mental health disorder have had their first onset.” This means that by the time most people even graduate, let alone married or in a career, three-fourths of them will have already experienced an episode relating to their mental health.
A 2013 survey of college students found that 33 percent of women and 27 percent of men reported a period in the last year of feeling so depressed it was difficult to function. Immediate action needs to be taken if our future generation is admitting that their mental health can make it “difficult for them to function.”
It can be incredibly difficult to admit to someone, let alone admit to one’s self that they are struggling with their mental health. Because of this, students may feel insecure, nervous or scared to reach out and get help, or they simply may not know how to do so.
A survey conducted on a college campus asked students about their mental health and counseling availabilities. The survey found that many of the students didn’t even know about the university’s counseling center and those who did often felt uncomfortable navigating treatment because of the stigma. This shows that although students are dealing with anxiety, depression or any other emotional burdens, they didn’t even know that they could seek help on campus! How are students supposed to take care of themselves if they aren’t even aware of the resources available to them?
The University of Missouri–St. Louis has a counseling center that all students have access to. In Room 131 of the Millennium Student Center, counseling services are offered for a wide variety of topics, including crisis intervention. This center also provides emergency intervention and services to those at risk of being hurt or hurting themselves. Along with that, since most college students are on a tight budget, these sessions are only $10 and the first one is free (with a sliding scale available for students with financial need).
I know several people who have taken advantage of this service at UMSL and one of my friends even said, “I don’t suffer from any mental illnesses but was surprised as to how much better I felt after just one session. Just having the safety of talking to someone has made me feel healthier and more stable.”
It is a university’s job to make students feel comfortable and secure enough to reach out and get the help they need. This can be done by creating more events on campus that help remove the stigma associated with mental health. UMSL hosts weekly mindfulness meditation groups that are led by the director of counseling services. Events like this allow students to take time for themselves, reflect on their feelings, and practice mindfulness.
Self-awareness is the ability to understand one’s own needs, desires, failings, habits and more, which will ultimately help make life easier. Scientists have found that high levels of self-awareness have been linked with personal development, healthy relationships and effective leadership. Teaching and promoting this on college campuses will help students be able to understand themselves and their struggles, which may also encourage them to seek help.
Growing up is hard. Life is hard. One’s mental health is essential to their overall quality and enjoyment of life. College students are working toward building a future for themselves and
college campuses need to take more action to help their students feel prepared to do so. College campuses should teach more about mental health, as well as provide and encourage students to attend counseling. Colleges need to not only teach the material but teach students how to keep themselves mentally healthy.
By identifying students at risk, teachings self-awareness and providing help to students on campus, college campuses could start to be a place where students don’t have to suffer from poor mental health.