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Explosion Seen in Mental Health Problems for College Students

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College is often considered an adventure, four years of fun, relationships and experiences occasionally punctuated by an all-nighter and considerations about the future. Beyond the parties, however, the pressures of grades, jobs and being away from home can take its toll. An uncertain job market, the rising costs of a college degree and schools of thought that claim a degree is unnecessary (or maybe even worthless) can make this a stressful, anxious time. Here’s a look at the recent explosion seen in mental health problems for college students.

The Mental Health Explosion

The number one cause of withdrawals and dropouts in schools across the country today is mental health. The National Association of of Mental Illness found that 64 percent of students did not finish college because of mental health issues. Many of them cited the pressure from family to perform well as a reason for their struggles. Anxiety and eating disorders are also some of the issues reported by college students experiencing mental health problems.

With the stigma of seeking mental help largely receding, more students are willing to make their troubles known than was the case in past generations. It is possible that, as much as mental health issues are on the rise, there are more people reporting them now than there ever have been.

Depression

Of all the different mental problems affecting college students, perhaps depression is the biggest one. Students feel mentally and physically exhausted, unwilling (and perhaps even unable) to participate in academic or social activities. The cycle feeds into itself: they are unable to focus on their coursework, so they get low grades, and thus feel less inclined to improve their performance. The nihilism and listlessness has resulted in 2.2 million students seeking professional counseling assistance last year, according to the National Survey of Counseling Center Directors.

Scarce Resources for a Big Problem

Compounding the problem is that many universities are not geared to handle potentially thousands of students who need mental help. When a 21 year old psychology major at the University of Maryland felt the symptoms of depression creeping in on her, she tried to call her campus’ counseling center, only to be told that they couldn’t accept any more patients. The University of Notre Dame Counseling Center does not have a full time psychiatrist; instead, one comes in two days a week to serve the mental health needs of nearly 1,000 students who have used the school’s counseling services.

How College Students Can Deal With Mental Health Problems

For a student worried that he or she may be experiencing a mental health problem, there are a number of ways to address it:

1) Talk to someone; whether a roommate, best friend, family member or professor. The worst thing to do with feelings of depression, stress, anxiety and helplessness is to pretend they’re not there, or that they’ll pass. Talking about it gets more people invested in the recovery, exposing the student to more resources for, and avenues of, help.

2) Find a counseling center. Even if the one on campus is unable to take on more patients, a simple Google search will reveal other facilities in the area that can treat a student, capable of addressing any concern: substance abuse, anger management, anxiety, depression, homesickness, etc.

3) Don’t shut off. Depression is potent because it makes inactivity and passivity look tempting, but a student who throws him or herself into activities and interests will make big strides towards overcoming negative feelings. It may be hard to motivate oneself into doing hobbies or sports when feeling depressed, but a trusted friend may be able to help the student stay involved and engaged with the world around them.

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