Mental Health Matters

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When it comes to mental illness rates among college students, recent studies reveal frightening truths.

In the spring of 2014, Penn State released a study, which found anxiety replaced depression as the number one mental health issue among college students. Of the 100,000 students surveyed, more than half of students listed anxiety as a personal struggle.

The following year, the American College Health Association (ACHA) discovered in their 2015 National College Health Assessment survey approximately one in six college students, or 15.8 percent, had been diagnosed with, or were receiving treatment for anxiety.

The survey also revealed 21.9 percent of students reported anxiety had negatively affected their academic performance within the last 12 months, up from 18.2 percent in the ACHA 2008 survey.

Along with anxiety, 13.8 percent of students surveyed said depression also affected their academic performance in the last 12 months, up from 11.2 percent in 2008.

Although some may be surprised at the prevalence of anxiety and depression among college students, I am not.

I think it is safe to say the majority of college students feel stressed throughout the school year, especially during midterms and final exams. I have heard it said many times before that college is some of the best years of one’s life, and while I completely agree, I also believe they are some of the most overwhelming.

Beginning as a freshman, students are thrown into a weird state of having more independence than in high school, but at the same time, are still in one way or another dependent on their families.

At times, it feels as though a million pressures are looming over students, whether it is academics, relationships, extracurricular activities, jobs, finances — and last but not least: figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life and how to get there.

No wonder so many college students are struggling.

So, if a large number of students are wrestling with stress, how do you know when it is time to seek help?

When you realize your mood is interfering regularly with your ability to function, whether it be with school, work, sports, etc., when you begin to shut out friends and family members and have difficulty going to class, then it is time to ask for help.

Asking for help is not weak. Struggling with anxiety, depression or another form of mental illness does not make you weak.

If you feel like you are drowning, universities have life jackets in place for you. Reach out, go to the counseling center, talk about it to a trusted confidant. Do not shut people out or ignore your struggle.

Numbers do not lie — you are not alone, so do not isolate yourself. Your mental health and wellbeing matter.

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