Importance of Mental Health in College Students
21 June 2022
The importance of mental health in college students cannot be emphasized enough. As students leave everything familiar to them and enter university, they may experience emotional and mental strain.
Throw in assignments, exams, and the important decision of what to study as they get ready for the future, and the mental health in young people can go downhill quickly.
In a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), 95% of university counseling directors stated that the number of students on their campus with notable psychological problems is growing. The same survey revealed that 41% of university students are afflicted with anxiety while 24.5% of the students they see were seeing are under psychotropic medications.
Top Mental Health Issues College Students Face
Knowing the major mental health challenges students face is important so that institutions and communities can provide them with adequate support.
Depression and anxiety top the list of mental health problems that university students are experiencing.
Depression reportedly affects over 45% of college students with rates doubling over the last decade. It can seriously affect a student’s overall well-being and is often characterized by:
- Consistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness
- Mood swings
- Changes in sleep and/or appetite
- Withdrawal from social circles, a tendency to self-isolate
- Increased pessimism
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating and completing tasks
- Lack of enjoyment in activities one previously found pleasurable
Depression can also lead to feelings of shame and guilt as students struggle to work on tasks and complete assignments on time. This can cause their depression to deepen and spiral out of control.
Depression can be triggered by several reasons, some of which include loneliness or the feeling of disconnection that comes with entering an unfamiliar environment.
Offering assistance in the form of low-pressure social activities, support groups, or counseling can often help students cope with depression and eventually overcome it.
While it manifests differently in each individual, anxiety disorders often have the following symptoms:
- Disproportionate feelings of nervousness, restlessness, or tension
- An impending sense of doom, danger, or panic without any cause
- Trembling or sweating
- Weakness and fatigue
- Insomnia or difficulty falling asleep
- Problems with appetite (not eating enough or binge eating)
- Nausea or migraines
Students can feel anxious for a plethora of reasons such as upcoming exams, difficulty coping with classes and assignments, or the lack of a familiar support system.
While speaking to a counselor may help, other coping mechanisms such as meditation and engaging in physical activity can help reduce anxiety.
Some students may suffer from more serious forms of anxiety such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety, and panic disorder.
They may require specialized care and leniency from the college administration to accommodate their situation.
Other Common Mental Health Problems Faced by College Students
Depression and anxiety are considered the “common cold” of mental health since they statistically occur most frequently. However, there are other mental health problems affecting college students that must be addressed, including:
- Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia
- Suicidal ideation and intent
- Substance abuse
The benefits of taking care of the mind include the ability to live well-balanced, fulfilling, and functional lives. Poor mental health can hinder one’s ability to adjust and perform well in college, which could translate to their life outside of college too. It is therefore important to ensure that students are mentally healthy.
Taking Care of the Mind: Why Mental Health Is Important For College Students
Being healthy physically and mentally is important for individuals to be balanced, functional, and happy. Poor mental health can affect students’:
Mental health issues can impact the academic performance of students and hinder their output.
Lack of energy, difficulties concentrating, and reduced motivation can severely affect a student’s college experience and chances of succeeding in their academic endeavors.
Sixty-six percent of students say that having access to the right resources can help them improve their academic performance.
There is a clear relationship between mental health and well-being.
Students who are well-adjusted and mentally healthy are generally better off in other areas of life. They’re better able to cope better with academic requirements and maintain a work-life balance that allows them to fully enjoy their college experience.
It is thus important for campuses to create a supportive environment. Students should be allowed to focus on their mental health without universities putting undue pressure on their academics since each student is unique and learns at their own pace.
Mental Health and Student Suicide
Suicide is the second major cause of death among college students. Since the majority of these students leave home to attend universities, colleges are in a unique position to provide them with mental health support.
How Can Colleges Improve the Mental Health of Students
College administrators and professors can facilitate a supportive environment that nurtures students and helps them grow as they pursue academic success. Here are some measures they can enact:
- Access to trained mental health professionals and counselors
- Promotion of mental health awareness
- Student support groups
- Making accommodations or allowances for students suffering from mental health issues
- Improving inclusivity and diversity
IMANA and Mental Health
Most students will suffer from some form of mental health crisis during their college life. It’s, therefore, important to focus on the mental health issues affecting college students, the reasons behind them, and possible solutions to help them recover.
The Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) is rising to meet this challenge by providing quality healthcare to the public with health providers guided by faith. One of its advocacies is to improve access to and awareness of mental health services across all communities. IMANA has a directory of Muslim mental health professionals and a list of helpful resources to help students of all backgrounds during this critical stage in their lives.
Learn more and get involved by visiting the IMANA website.