College students face significant amounts of pressure from every direction of their life. They have just been thrown into adulthood, meaning that many are experiencing their first jobs, paying their own bills, and trying to balance school life with a social life.
With so much pressure, it is no wonder the Healthy Minds Study found that more than 60% of college students met the criteria for mental health issues in the 2020-2021 school year. College students are turning to their counselors for many different mental health struggles. According to a study published in Acad Psychiatry, the most common of these mental health struggles include:
According to the Psychiatric Times, college students using and misusing substances like cannabis, alcohol, stimulants, and Benzodiazepine is on the rise. Often, the pressure to consume drugs and alcohol in a person’s college years can feel impossible to ignore. However, alcohol and drug use can begin to take a toll on one’s overall wellbeing, being associated with issues like:
Many college students find themselves experiencing substance use disorders after turning to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism for loneliness, sadness, stress, or anxiety. A substance use disorder describes an excessive use of drugs or alcohol that begins to cause significant issues in a person’s life, such as health problems, relationship despairs, and a failure to follow through with responsibilities.
College students experiencing a substance use disorder will find that the mental illness causes many issues in their schoolwork, social life, and overall well being. Despite these negative consequences caused by drug and alcohol use, those experiencing a substance use disorder will find it nearly impossible to quit consuming alcohol or drugs.
Photo by Yan Krukov
Anxiety has recently been shown to be the top mental health concern amongst college students, with a whopping 41.6% reportedly experiencing the mental health condition. An anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive feelings of worry, uneasiness, and fear and can take on many different shapes and forms. Anxiety disorders can cause many different issues in a person’s life, such as a lack of motivation, social withdrawal, tension, and restlessness.
College students face an immense amount of stress, whether it be in their school life, work life, or personal life. This stress, paired with other factors like genetics, substance use, and poor health, can lead to significant feelings of anxiety.
Depression is the second most common mental illness faced by college students today, with 35.8% reportedly facing the mental health concern. Many factors can cause depression, such as biology and family history. The momentous changes one encounters when entering their college years can also be a significant risk factor. While college is certainly an exciting stage in life, it can also be a difficult time for many to face. Many students face loneliness, feeling lost, and extreme stress.
Depression is a serious mental illness that can cause a person to feel excessively sad or lose interest in things they once enjoyed. Those experiencing depression may find that their physical health, social wellbeing, college career, and overall quality of life begin to suffer.
Caring for Your Mental Health in College
While mental illnesses can be caused by various factors, like genetics, biology, traumas, and lifestyle, taking steps to care for your mental health can be a key player in preventing severe mental health symptoms. A few ways a college student can care for their mental health include:
With exams, projects, work, and a social life to balance, taking care of your physical health may be the last thing on your mind. However, ensuring your body’s simple needs are met can be critical to taking care of your mental health and overall wellbeing. This is because the mind depends on the body to work at its happiest and healthiest. A few key ways to care for your physical health include:
Getting enough rest
Eating enough foods that offer good nutrition
Disorganization can leave you scrambling to meet deadlines, causing unnecessary stress that will begin to take its toll on your health and wellbeing. Organizing your time, priorities, items, and schedule will help you stay on top of your schoolwork without feeling you are racing to meet the latest deadline.
Your mindset controls your overall outlook on life. Many of us can fall into a negative thinking pattern that leaves us feeling low and unmotivated. Work to become more self-aware of your thinking patterns through methods like:
Adjusting negative thinking patterns can play a huge role in caring for your mental health. Practicing gratitude, making a conscious effort to speak more positively, and consciously seeking humor in daily life can be great ways to turn negative thinking around once you have developed the self-awareness to catch it.
College can be stressful, so picking up some relaxing hobbies can be a great way to decompress after a stressful day full of studying, exams, and extracurriculars. A few ideas for relaxing hobbies include:
My Personal Favorite, Travelling with Friends
Drug and alcohol use can cause more harm than good, especially when attempting to use them as a coping mechanism. Rather than turning to substances to cope with difficult moments, seek healthier coping mechanisms that work for you and your lifestyle.
College can feel lonely when you know absolutely nobody, and loneliness can take its toll on a person’s mental health. But you can’t expect to meet anybody new if you don’t try to. Get involved in your school! If you’re into science, search for a science club. If you love football, go to the games. The possibilities to surround yourself with people who share similar interests as you can be endless in college.
When you feel stressed, sad, or confused, talking to a trusted friend, partner, family member, or counselor can feel like a weight has been lifted. Don’t be afraid to reach out in search of the support and love you crave as the need arises. It is so important to remember that you do not have to face the stresses of college life alone.
References: Abrams, Z. (2022, October 1). Student mental health is in crisis. Campuses are rethinking their approach. Apa.org. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/10/mental-health-campus-care
Abuse, N. I. on D. (2020). Addiction and Health. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/addiction-health#:~:text=People%20with%20addiction%20often%20have
American Psychological Association. (2013, June). College students’ mental health is a growing concern, survey finds. Https://Www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/06/college-students
Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2014). College Students: Mental Health Problems and Treatment Considerations. Academic Psychiatry, 39(5), 503–511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9
This article is inspired by my 2022 Bali trip with my friends. As 2023 rolls around, we will be living separate lives all around the world. I hope to have future opportunities to travel the world with you guys. Thank you for the fun, joy, laughter, and climatic moments we had on the trip. I can’t wait to share with my friends in college the amazing friends I made on this trip.
The Boy with the Trumpet Tattoo
Special thanks to: Darren, Hiero, Rachel, Kelmer, Ethan, Isaac, Wesley, Jenn, Jax, Jeremy, Sam, Tyan, Tia, Zi’En, Claire, and Jing Er