Mental Health on Campus
Mental Health on Campus
By Dr. David Shern, president and CEO, Mental Health America
Soon, college students will be back at classes and incoming freshmen will get their first taste of campus life. For many young people, college is the first taste of independence - an opportunity to make new friends and have fresh experiences. But colleges are also notoriously high-stress environments. The demands of academics, living with others in cramped quarters and not practicing good health habits can all take their toll.
Last year, 85 percent of students reported that they experienced stress on a daily basis, according to an MtvU/Associated Press poll. And in a 2008ACHA-NCHA II survey, 87 percent of college students said they felt overwhelmed by all that they had to do. The economic downturn can place even more stress on students, like financial woes, the need to work part-time, and concerns about job prospects after graduation.
These figures demonstrate the importance of maintaining your mental health. Yet awareness is not what it should be. Building healthy school environments requires increasing knowledge among students and school administrators about the seriousness of mental health problems and how to recognize them. It is also critical that this knowledge translate to healthy behaviors.
This includes building healthy eating habits; staying connected by keeping in touch with family and friends and getting involved in extracurricular activities; watching how much you spend and limiting how much you drink; and getting a good night's sleep.
It's also important to know how to get help for a problem. It can be hard to admit that you are struggling when you think you're expected to have your life in order.
But college is a difficult time with many challenges. When it gets to the points where you feel you're in a pressure-cooker, it is time to reach out to someone who can give professional guidance. Sharing your feelings reduces isolation and helps you realize you are not alone.
It's also important to help a friend who might be experiencing difficult times. Many universities have campus counseling centers. In addition, there are a number of student-led organizations that work to increase students' awareness of mental health issues, provide information and resources regarding mental health and mental illness, encourage students to seek help as soon as it is needed, and serve as liaison between students and the mental health community. The organization Active Minds (www.activeminds.org) has over 200 chapters around the country that are raising awareness and offering help.
You can also get involved by visiting your campus counseling center or volunteering to conduct outreach.
In addition, Mental Health America offers resources on Sexual and Gender Identity issues, Eating Disorders, Learning Disabilities, Substance Abuse, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and other mental health conditions. For more information, visit our website at www.mentalhealthamerica.net.
If at any point, you are concerned that a friend may be thinking of hurting themselves, it is important for you to reach out for help. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center or dial 911 for immediate assistance.