Photo courtesy The Center For Connection

College Students and Mental Health: A Time of Crisis

Today, nearly 1 billion people live with a mental health disorder, and in low-income countries, more than 75% of people with the disorder do not receive treatment. Mental health has a stigma around it.

We don’t want to believe that everyone has a problem with it, so we push it away. Although, it doesn’t work like that. You can’t just dismiss it from your daily life and expect it to go away. It affects everyone differently. Why do we hide it from our society when it’s our biggest problem today?

Why We Don’t Talk About It

Society finds that mental health issues are uncomfortable and threatening. This is understandable, but at what point do we draw the line due to our own mistakes in dismissing a serious problem? Any mental issue should be taken just as seriously as a physical disease like cancer.

Not being able to see the issue or the disorder doesn’t imply that it isn’t equally as serious. If anything, it is easier to diagnose and cure a physical disease while it is extremely hard to even know what you’re dealing with when it comes to mental health. There are so many ways that these issues can be interpreted and felt, and we don’t always know how to fight them. It is a constant mental battle between not only yourself but the people around you as well. Mental health is something that we should constantly acknowledge and assess in school.

What is a Solution?

Addressing mental health needs in school is critically important because 1 in 5 children and youth have a diagnosable emotional, behavioral or mental health disorder and 1 in 10 young people have a mental health challenge that is severe enough to impair how they function at home, school or in the community.

Mental health awareness should be added to our school systems’ curriculum. We should be taught from an early age what these mental problems are and how to control them. The longer we ignore a problem, the worse it becomes. If we can expose the problem early on, we may be able to reduce it, or at best, learn how to work with it instead of against it.

It’s like ripping the string from the seam of your shirt. You can ignore that loose string that hangs there but it will only constantly bother you, or you could cut the string and attempt to fix it. If we were taught coping mechanisms earlier on, maybe we could prevent the dangerous acts that are brought into this world.

How It Affects Everyone

When does it become too much? Anyone who works in the education field knows there are boundaries involved with mental health. Teachers must stay behind the fence of mental health in order to continue teaching. It isn’t the fault of teachers; it is the curriculum that they must teach. Teachers may need to downplay many topics in order to keep their students safe and happy.

If we were to insert mental health into our daily learning, it may get pushed to the side or ignored just as much due to it becoming a normal thing. Mental health already has a stigma to it. All that we would be doing is creating a new one. Stigmas are one of the main problems when it comes to things such as this.

We can’t have teachers offend students; we also can’t allow the teachers to intrude on personal matters. Teachers are stuck and don’t have room to adjust their curriculum. We have guidance counselors and social workers for that very reason.

A Professor’s Thoughts

A Social Work professor, who works for Shepherd University gave some input on some major issues that students struggle with. Pippa McCullough has been a clinical social worker for around 20 years. Pippa has been teaching at Shepherd University since 2018, first with an adjunct position and now working full-time. Pippa has worked within a number of settings which include basic needs, medical, child welfare, domestic violence and mental health.

When Pippa was asked about the things she sees in college students that revolve around their mental health, she said, “There is a universal instance that at some point in any given semester, students feel overwhelmed and stressed. This results in a widely varying range of reactions that manifest behaviorally. Some students have more elevated changes in mood and behavior and some with more depressed or lowered changes in mood and behavior when compared to their baseline.”

“For instance, some students when stressed become much more talkative, lack focus, jump from task to task, and don’t complete work on time. They indulge in fun activities like friends, shopping, and other hobbies or desires rather than face the continually mounting work and deadlines. Students at the other end of the spectrum exhibit behaviors lower than their baseline; they stop communicating with their peers and professors, they stop coming to class, and work is not of the quality usually submitted if it’s submitted at all.”

Pippa was asked what she could advise to those who struggle with stress or any other mental health troubles. Pippa suggested,“Establish good routines as best as you can (eat well, limit caffeine and stay on a sleep schedule). Practice boundaries and self-care (from friends, family, and work). Build and utilize your support network outside of your friends and family (use the services on campus for instance). Lastly, stay in touch with your professors outside of class.”

Mental health has a tremendous number of formalities to it. It isn’t a disease that can be conquered. I would love to say otherwise, but unfortunately, I can’t. Mental health issues are something that constantly stick with you and may make you feel smaller than you are. There are so many ways to go into battle with this deadly disease, and yet we choose to ignore what is right in front of us.

We need to start preparing our future for the battles that we have not only been through but have overcome. Mental health is important, and we need to stop looking it over as if it is a lost cause. It is not a lost cause; you are not a lost cause. You are important and so is your mental health. 


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