Mental Health on Campus: Why Are So Many Undergrads Struggling?
With school back in session, many college campuses are coping with a new problem: an epidemic of undergrads struggling with debilitating anxiety and depression. A recent UCLA study found an increase in students reporting frequent depression, and experts say the pressure on students to excel is at least partly to blame.
Why does college seem to cause problems for so many students, and how are campuses adapting to increasing mental health needs to those in need?
The reasons for mental health problems on campus
While the number of students reporting mental health issues has seen a significant increase in recent years, the trend began in the 1990’s, the American Psychological Association notes. In recent years, counseling centers report an increasing number of students suffering from more serious psychological issues.
College freshmen, especially, tend to experience heightened stress as they cope with a new environment and many new people. Among students at every college level, freshmen most often report feelings of depression.
For all college students, poor sleeping and eating habits, too little exercise, financial concerns, roommate conflicts and the pressure to earn exceptional grades can result in depression and other mental health issues. Individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders often experience their first episodes as young adults.
Students’ emotional state appears to be getting worse. Researchers at UCLA found that in 2014, students rated their emotional health more poorly than did their predecessors. And the number of students who frequently felt depressed was at 9.5 percent, several points higher than in 2009.
The UCLA research suggests that students who report feeling depressed also feel a lack of connection with campus life. They were about twice as likely to go to class late and to fall asleep during class. More than half of the students who reported frequent feelings of depression also were often being bored in class, and they were less likely to study with other students or otherwise engage with their peers.
How are colleges responding?
With so many undergrads struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, colleges are working quickly to find ways to meet the increased need for mental health services. Some are setting up automated kiosks that provide screenings for depression and other disorders, while others are kicking off campaigns to encourage students to ask for assistance when needed.
Many colleges are attempting to meet increased demand for mental health services by hiring additional counselors and initiating group sessions that can assist more students at one time. Some also are working through mental health coordinators who help students learn to manage care for themselves.
Research demonstrates that support for mental and behavioral health can improve students’ college experience, the American Psychological Association notes. Counseling can positively affect feelings of well-being along with academic performance.
Conversely, troubled students who lack appropriate supportive services can negatively impact others on campuses — including their classmates, roommates and faculty members — with disruptive behavior.
Increased demand for mental health services will continue
The National Alliance on Mental Illness notes that demand for mental health support will continue to increase on college campuses in the coming years. To meet the growing demand, colleges must continue to expand programs such as walk-in student health centers and referrals to qualified off-campus resources.
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If you think that you or a loved one may be struggling with a mental health disorder, Pasadena Villa can help. We are here to answer questions and connect to care. Pasadena Villa currently offers treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee , and outpatient services in Cary, North Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina . To learn more about our program, call us at1.407.378.3519
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