Student Life

Mental Health in College: Campus Resources for Students

Finding counseling services on campus is easy, safe and helpful.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

February 10, 2020

Mental Health in College: Campus Resources for Students
In recent years, many of the stereotypes surrounding mental health issues and treatment have been broken down thanks to awareness, transparency and an influx of resources and help. However, it’s still difficult to ask for help when you need it, and no one knows that better than college students. The collegiate years bring a lot of big changes, and on the outside, it can seem as if everyone is coping really well. As it turns out, however, more college students are struggling with mental health than you think. According to the American Council on Education, 3 out of 10 college students have dealt with depression in the past two weeks, over 1 in 4 have expressed feelings of anxiety, and 1 in 20 have created a suicide plan in the last year. As startling as those statistics are, it’s even more jarring to think about the people that comprise them. College students that are trying to find their purpose and create a plan for their life need mental health resources more than ever. Fortunately, a college campus is the perfect place to find help.

Mental Health Issues that College Students Face

While students on college campuses can experience an array of mental illnesses, there are five specific conditions that are most common among students, as found by BestColleges.com: Depression – Those suffering from depression experience a myriad of symptoms, from sleeping more or less to changes in appetite. Others may experience feelings of sadness, being overwhelmed or hopelessness. Finally, mental symptoms may include – but are not limited to – a “glass half-empty” attitude or difficulty focusing. Anxiety – Everyone experiences anxiety in life, but sometimes, an abundance of anxiety can trigger a disorder. Emotional and mental symptoms of an anxiety disorder are feelings of stress, irritability, fearfulness and difficulty focusing. There can also be physical symptoms, like sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, muscle tension, headaches and a frequent upset stomach. Suicide – Suicidal thoughts and feelings should be taken seriously. They may have their foundation in depression or anxiety, but these thoughts and feelings gain momentum to the point that someone wants to harm themselves. To gauge whether you or someone you know is suicidal, pay attention to their speech, moods and behavior. Suicidal persons will talk as if they have no reason to go on. They will oftentimes become solitary, experience rage and humiliation to a high degree, and seem anxious and irritable. Finally, they may start giving their things away, withdrawing from friends and family, telling people goodbye, sleeping poorly, behaving recklessly, and imbibing in too much drugs and alcohol. Eating Disorders – Believe it or not, eating disorders are not mutually exclusive to women. In fact, according to BestColleges.com, men are just as likely to be suffering from an eating disorder. Some warning signs of an eating disorder include poor body image, excessive exercise, irregular heartbeats, dehydration, feeling like eating is out of control, fear of eating in public, and constantly making excuses for eating habits. Addiction – Finally, many college students struggle with addiction. While this is in large part due to a more prevalent drinking culture, college students are just as much at risk to develop a prescription drug addiction as well. Those who do develop a dependency on drugs and/or alcohol exhibit several symptoms: slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, impaired coordination, fear or paranoia, prone to suspicious behavior, a sudden need for money, higher-than-normal drug and alcohol tolerance, deterioration in physical appearance, and a sudden change in friends or activities.

Counseling Centers on College Campuses

When you think of campus resources, sleek gym facilities and modern computer labs come to mind, but health and wellness centers are considered to fall into that category as well. These facilities will oftentimes feature counseling services; and though they vary by campus, the goal is the same: to advocate for and assist students with their mental well-being. Princeton University was the first college in the country to offer mental health services in 1910; however, it took a while for the rest of the country to catch on. Counseling centers on college campuses didn’t become a widespread resource until the 1960’s and 70’s. Now, however, these facilities are pretty standard offerings. At most college campuses, students do not have to pay extra to utilize counseling centers. The cost for this service is bundled up in the fees that colleges charge every student (it is part of the “fees” of the “tuition and fees”). Essentially, each student at college is paying for this service – so you might as well use them!

Mental Health Services Available to Students

Each college provides their own individual approach to counseling, but students at most colleges will find an array of therapy opportunities available to them. They may include: Group Therapy – This outlet gives students the opportunity to meet with a group of their peers that might be experiencing the same issue. These also take the form of workshops that provide self-help guidance and advice to students in a lecture-style or physically active setting, like information on mindfulness or yoga sessions. Individual Therapy – Every college that offers mental health services provides students with the option for individual therapy. Students can meet one-on-one with a counselor to cover anything, from college adjustment issues to clinical depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and feelings. Couples Counseling – Some colleges even offer couples counseling! While you would think this type of service is reserved for those with a marriage certificate, colleges recognize that relationships with significant others can play an important role during college. With that, they offer services to those couples that need help talking or working through particular areas of their relationship together. Crisis Counseling and Services – Most colleges provide students with crisis counseling options. This is for students that may have experienced sexual harassment or assault or another traumatic experience, like a family death. A college counseling center will typically drop everything and see a student immediately if he or she needs crisis counseling. Consultations Concerning Others – Finally, students can reach out to the counseling center on behalf of their friends or roommates. A counselor will likely want to meet with the student that reached out first in order to get a better understanding of the situation.

Asking for Help on Campus Is Easy: Here’s How to Start

It can be daunting to ask for help if you’re struggling, but as it turns out, it’s very easy. Students can contact counseling services on campus for themselves – or they can have a friend reach out on their behalf. Some counseling centers even offer anonymous mental health screenings on their website. Taking the quiz to assess mental health may nudge a student to make an appointment. Typically, a counselor will want to meet the student for a brief assessment. This assessment will determine if there are in fact any underlying issues – or if students are experiencing very normal thoughts and feelings. Regardless, the counselor will then discuss treatment options with the student. Depending on the issue, four or five sessions may be enough or they may ask to meet until they feel the student has made healing progress. In some cases, a counselor will refer a student to a mental health counselor that is off campus. This is for special circumstances that a campus counselor feels he or she may be inadequate to address. Students should be rest assured, though, that campus mental health centers have great working relationships with outside providers in the community. A student is in excellent hands with a counselor or therapist that is off-campus. The stigma of mental health is being broken down more and more every day thanks to worldwide, national and campus programming. Students should not be afraid to seek help and guidance if they feel that they are struggling. In fact, it’s very normal to feel as if you are struggling as a college student – why not meet with someone who will advocate for your mental well-being? If reaching out to your campus counseling center seems too overwhelming, share your story with a friend or resident assistant (RA). They can make calls or send emails for you or attend your initial assessment with you. Admitting that you’re not ok is ok. Get help on campus – it’s included in your tuition, safe and confidential, and the best thing you can do for your mental health.

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