Mental Health Guide for College Students
24-hour Care for Mental Health Disorders
The college years have always been a time full of change. Graduating high school, moving away from home, and being in a completely new environment is enough to stress anyone out.
While we focus on grades and social lives, one thing that is often overlooked is your mental health. In fact, 75% of lifetime mental health cases begin before the age of 24.
There are steps you can take to improve your mental health situation, and the sooner you take those steps, the better off you’ll be. Let’s talk about college students and mental health.
Are Mental Health Issues On The Rise?
Young adults seem to have reached new mental health rates, and there are many questions about the causes.
Some people question if mental health issues are actually on the rise or if consciousness has simply evolved. People in the younger generations are more open to discussing mental health issues than previous generations, which is a much-needed improvement.
Regardless of whether or not the increase is real, the numbers are genuinely concerning. Among college students, mental health issues are a serious problem. In fact, as many as 36% of all college students struggle with at least one mental health issue at a time.
It is doubtful that these issues are being reported more rather than actually increasing. This is because 36% comes only 10 years after the latest reported study of 22%, which is already a disproportionately high rate.
College Students And Mental Health
Fortunately, mental illness is becoming easier for young people to talk about, which makes it much easier to understand and treat!
No matter what, college students have a higher rate of mental health issues than the general population. In order to address this issue, we need to look at the specific mental health issues, their root causes, and the long-term solutions.
Common Mental Health Issues
There are so many specific mental health issues that anybody could be facing at any point in their life without even knowing it. Because of this, it’s important to know some of the most common ones so you know you aren’t alone.
If you feel like something is wrong, but can’t identify what it may be, don’t panic. Self-diagnosis is never reliable anyway. You should seek out mental health services and get an actual diagnosis tailored to your own situation. However, these are a few of the most common disorders to be familiar with.
Anxiety rates almost doubled for young adults between the years 2008 and 2018. This is a trend that can’t continue.
There is a reason that anxiety is so common for college students. There is pressure from almost every direction in your life. You have pressure to get good grades, not be broke, make friends, get the right internship, and so much more.
If you play a sport or have a job, only added stress could overwhelm even the most organized student. You have to do hours of homework and studying every day, attend class, be on time, and do everything else that comes with your schedule.
There is also a lot of social pressure you experience in college. It may be pressure to look a certain way, act a certain way, or break the rules. Trying to stay strong and overcome that pressure, along with everything else, is a recipe for anxiety.
Anxiety is a serious mental health illness that only gets worse when left untreated. Treatment can include counseling or medication.
Depression is extremely common in college students and people around that age in general. If you aren’t living up to your previous expectations of yourself, or if college life isn’t living up to your expectations, it can be disappointing.
Other factors lead to depression. Being in a new environment, not making new friends, missing your family, and seasonal changes can cause this.
Remember that depression is not just a general feeling of sadness. It’s a chemical imbalance in your brain. Keep in mind that many types of depression require a diagnosis.
- Situational depression is likely the case if you haven’t experienced depression before but are feeling it now. This type of depression you would feel during a rough period like final exams, a breakup, or an overwhelming period during school.
- Bipolar depression is a serious disorder known for periods of mania followed by periods of extreme sadness.
- Chronic depression is depression that lasts for a long time and takes over your life.
- Seasonal depression comes with seasonal changes and can carry for long periods of time if left untreated.
Again, all of these will require a medical diagnosis and treatment. Treatment can include counseling and medication, depending on the circumstances. It is critically important that any form of depression is treated immediately, as the consequences of leaving it untreated lead people down a dangerous path.
There are far more specific mental health disorders than we can list in one article, but everybody experiences them differently. You may have PTSD from past experiences, the pressure to keep up with other students’ appearances may lead to an eating disorder like anorexia, peer pressure can lead to substance abuse disorder, and so much more.
Those are just a few common examples, but the list goes on. No matter what the specific disorder is, treatment will be necessary. Playing an active role in your own journey to a healthy mind is incredibly important to your success in school and beyond.
Factors in Declining Mental Health
You may have thought that getting out of your toxic high school life was going to be the only thing you needed to improve your mental health, only to find out that college takes a similar toll on you. Well, it may be for completely different reasons.
There are so many factors that go into college students’ mental health declining. You’re away from home, you have to make new friends, you have to study and get work done, you may have to balance a job with it, and you’re about to be in debt for a long time.
If that isn’t enough to affect your mental health when it’s all added up together, then maybe nothing ever will! As much as people build up college as the best time of your life, and in many ways it is, it comes with a lot of unique stresses.
Let’s say you moved from LA to Boston for college. It makes sense. You wanted a completely new change of scenery, and Boston has just that, along with some of the best schools in the country.
However, you may not have prepared yourself for the winter that’s coming. You may have just bought a winter coat and expected to be fine. Well, they only tell you about the cold.
The darkness of winter in the north is very challenging for many. Some people find that buying a seasonal lightbox to help your body stay in its natural rhythm is helpful. However, if you’re not in your dorm or apartment at that time, it may take a toll on you seeing the sun disappear at 4 pm.
The opposite could also be true. Seasonal depression doesn’t just have to be for the winter. If you’re used to snow on Christmas, and you love skiing or winter hiking, moving to a warm and sunny area may have a similar negative effect on your mood.
Times have changed. We mentioned that mental illness is increasing among college students. It is harder to be a student and hang out with your friends most of the time. The cost of school has increased incredibly, putting more and more pressure on students to have steady incomes and minimize their debt after graduation.
College alone is hard enough to find time for other activities. If you’re a full-time student and you’re working simultaneously, it’s almost impossible to squeeze time in for living your life. It doesn’t have to be a job, either. An internship, an extracurricular activity, or a sport will take up enough of your time.
If you have no time for yourself except to sleep, this is bound to lead to mental health issues over the long haul. Find as much time as you can to live your life. If you’re feeling swamped, talk to your professor, coach, or boss and let them know how you’re feeling.
College is a transition period for many, and it comes with a lot of anxiety about your future. There are many “what if”s and questions that are simply up in the air. We’ve all heard of people graduating from Harvard and working at McDonald’s to pay off their student loans.
You’ll find yourself questioning your future. Did you choose the right major? Will there be a job for you when you graduate? Will you ever pay off your student debt? These questions can eat away at many college students.
All you can do is work to build the best future for yourself. If you believe you are doing that, then there is nothing to worry about!
Being thrown into a new environment is always challenging, especially when it comes to making new friends. Luckily, it’s a lot easier to make friends when you see the same people all the time in your classes, dorm, and college activities.
However, this also comes with the possibility of being surrounded by the wrong types of people and feeling trapped in these situations. There’s also the possibility of not making friends at all and feeling isolated. No matter the case, poor social health ultimately leads to poor mental health in most cases.
Mental Health Guide For College Students
While there is no one-size guide for all mental health disorders, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your situation. Remember that everybody is different and will react differently to different treatments, routines, and disorders. However, these are some great general tips that you can incorporate into your routine with even minimal time to spare.
Even if it’s a cold winter, getting outside is proven to help improve your mental health. If you don’t ski or snowboard, there’s more you can do in the winter, and you must find something if you believe you’re experiencing seasonal depression.
Grab your boots and go for a winter hike. There are bound to be some easy trails that you can handle in the winter, no matter where you are. Try cross-country skiing! It’s fairly easy for beginners. Don’t want to spend money on gear? Go for a walk through your city. Just layer up and go to a park or walk downtown and have fun.
Suppose it isn’t the winter that’s giving you the blues, even better! It shouldn’t be too hard to convince yourself to throw a frisbee around with some friends or go for a walk. If your school is in the right area, take a trip to the beach!
Make Time For Hobbies
Do you play a musical instrument, draw, or write poetry? One of the biggest complaints people have as adults is giving up on these talents around their college years.
Remember that you don’t have to be great at something to enjoy it. If you keep practicing, you’ll get good. It doesn’t even have to be a skill that you want to work on. Many people give up on things like reading for pleasure during college because they have to read so much for school.
Reading is so good for your brain, and it’s such an enjoyable activity that it’s great for improving your mental health. Don’t overlook this. Grab your Harry Potter books, your favorite novels, or head to the library and find something that looks interesting.
Don’t have a hobby? Well, it’s the perfect time to find one! You might find a new passion of yours, too! Remember, hobbies that challenge your mind are great for your brain health, which will directly impact your overall mood. Reading, writing, art, and music are just a few examples. If it’s challenging and you enjoy it, then it’s perfect!
Make Time For Self Care
Having a self-care routine in place is critical for improving your mental health. Get a gym membership, take up swimming, or start running around your campus’ track. No matter what form you choose, exercise is critical for getting out of a mental health decline.
Exercise literally helps balance the hormones and neurotransmitters in your body, which directly impacts illnesses like depression. Cardio exercises and strength training both improve your blood flow, which is also great for brain health.
Don’t forget about diet. Just like your muscles, your brain needs the right foods to stay in good shape. Skip over the ice cream at the dining hall and ensure you’re getting a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Blueberries are full of brain-friendly antioxidants. Don’t forget to incorporate healthy fats like fish, eggs, seeds, and nuts, which directly impact your brain health.
Pair the right diet and exercise routine together and make some brain gains!
Don’t forget to treat yourself from time to time. Do you love getting a nice iced coffee from the cafe? Go ahead and grab one. You could also get a friend and see a movie. Just set aside any time you can for a little bit of leisure.
Self-care also includes making yourself feel good. Try some yoga, meditation, quiet time, or whatever helps you relax.
Organization, especially time management, is critical to your success in college. If you push yourself to get your tasks done promptly, you free up more time to focus on yourself and the things that make you happy.
Not only that, but taking that extra few minutes at the beginning of each day or week will help reduce stress, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed. Start with a calendar or a time management app on your phone and try to plan out your week in advance, adding and changing things as you need throughout the week.
Incorporate your class schedule, study and homework time, and self-care time. Having time for meal prep and exercise will also be beneficial.
Make Time To Reset
Do you feel like you need to hit a reset button, but winter or spring break just can’t come soon enough? We’ve all felt that way. Planning for a reset is a good idea for taking some of the pressure off yourself.
Is there a long weekend coming up? Even a regular weekend can be enough. Clear yourself of all plans for that weekend, do your best to get your schoolwork done beforehand, and do whatever you make happy. Get a massage, get your nails done, hang out with a friend, meditate. Whatever will make you feel better.
Even if you want to spend some time with friends, make sure you have some time just for yourself. Spending time alone is important for your mental health.
Connect With Family
If you’re away from home, homesickness can be one of the leading causes of mental health issues for college students. Please make time to check up on your family and chat with them. Use FaceTime or Zoom to see their faces and make a better connection with them.
Don’t forget to interact with old friends. While it is true that these relationships often dwindle after high school, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to keep them alive. It never hurts to check up on somebody you care for, and you might make their day by trying!
Reach Out For Help
The best thing you can possibly do for yourself if you’re experiencing mental health issues, especially chronic ones, is to seek help. See if your school offers mental health services and ask about how to get started with them.
Also communicate with friends and family about how you’re feeling. Your friends and family care about you, and they want to know how you’re feeling, and they probably want to help in any way that they can. Having extra support is always a good idea.
Don’t Put Off Treatment
Don’t put off finding help just because of your busy schedule. If you need help, you need to find it immediately, especially for disorders like depression.
This is because these disorders only get worse over time if left untreated, and they can lead to other health conditions, suicidal ideations, and even permanent brain damage.
This means that there’s no time to wait. Get an assessment or schedule a first appointment with a certified therapist if you need help. College is a stressful time, so don’t make it worse for yourself.
Get Help Today
Now that you’ve read a quick mental health guide for college students, the best thing you can do is take some of these tips and put them into practice. This is your one life and your one college experience, so make the most of it.
Don’t add any extra difficulties to an already stressful period. Get the help you need today, stay updated with our latest mental health news, and learn how to find your passion and live a fulfilling life!