Mental health concerns can impact anyone at virtually any age – and their effects can extend to just about every part of a person’s life. In today’s post, we’re taking a closer look at one specific population: How does mental health affect students?
The Challenges of Student Life
It’s common for adults to look back at their college years with great fondness. This is understandable. College can be a tremendous time for self-discovery, personal growth, and the development of lifelong friendships. But the glow of nostalgia can sometimes obscure the more difficult parts of life as a college student.
Here are a few common challenges that many college students face:
Did I choose the right major? Will I be able to pass all my classes? If I do earn my degree, will I be able to find a job? If I don’t succeed, will I be an embarrassment or a disappointment to everyone who cares about me?
College students can put themselves under immense pressure, and they often lack the skills they need to manage this stress in a healthy manner.
For so many students, going to college requires them and/or their parents to take on massive debt. Whether they drop out or graduate, they may find themselves facing several years of high monthly payments. The knowledge of what awaits them when their loans are due can be a source of ongoing distress.
The day a person moves into the dorm is often the first time they will be living somewhere other than home. The friends they went to school with for the past 12 years are no longer nearby. They have to figure out a way to fit into a brand new (to them) social structure while also taking some of the most difficult classes they’ve ever had.
Getting up on time. Going to class. Squeezing in a quick meal. Studying in the library. Working a part-time job. Trying to have a social life. Yes, high school students are busy – but they also have parents, teachers, coaches, and other authority figures to help them stay on track. In college, the time demands can become much more intense at the same time that students lose the support and structure they have relied on in the past.
Diet & Exercise
Dorm life is rarely held up as a shining example of healthy living. Late nights, fast food, minimal exercise, and substance abuse can combine to have a devastating impact on a student’s body. And when physical health declines, mental health is often quick to follow.
Instead of asking “How does mental health affect students?” maybe we should be asking “Are there any aspects of college life that don’t affect students’ mental health?” Of course, the answer to that second question would make for a very short blog post.
How Exactly Does Mental Health Affect Students?
Now that we’ve enumerated just a few of the many challenges facing college students today, let’s take a moment to consider how these concerns can impact their mental health.
Loneliness & Isolation
Even in today’s hyperconnected world, it is surprisingly easy for a student to become isolated. Just because they’re sharing a campus with thousands of other people doesn’t mean they’re immune from loneliness. Feeling like you don’t fit in when everyone else seems to be making friends and finding their purpose can be devastating.
For many college students, success in high school came relatively (or even extremely) easy. The first setback they have in a college class can come as a stunning surprise.
If a student hasn’t had to fight through academic adversity before, a seemingly minor problem can cause them to question if they really have what it takes to succeed at this level.
We talked a lot about stress in the previous section. On their own, each one of the concerns we noted (pressure to succeed, financial worries, time constraints, social difficulties, and diminishing physical health) can pose considerable challenges. When they all occur at the same time, the effect can be overwhelming.
Sense of Self
This is related to self-confidence, but it’s different enough to warrant its own discussion. Being away at college exposes students to opportunities, enticements, and obstacles that many of them have never encountered before.
No matter how well prepared they thought they were on the day they received their high school diploma, the situations they find themselves in – and the decisions they make – can quickly cause them to question their values, morals, and sense of who, exactly, they are.
Potential Solutions for Students Who Are Struggling
Answering the question “How does mental health affect students?” can help us identify potential problems. But we can’t stop there. Now that we have a better idea of what students are going through, we need to be sure that they have access to the support they need.
Here are a few suggestions for students who are struggling:
Personal Support Network
It’s important for students to have someone they can talk to when times get tough. This doesn’t have to be a professional healthcare provider. Talking to a friend or family member can help students put their worries into words, which is often enough to help them see the path forward.
Most colleges provide a variety of campus support services. These may include a health clinic, on-site therapists, and peer counseling.
Colleges can also help students with many of the challenges we’ve been discussing on this page. For example, if a student has been struggling because of financial worries, or they’re overwhelmed by the demands of their classes, budgeting assistance or a few tutoring sessions may resolve the problem.
In some circumstances, professional treatment becomes a necessity. If a student develops an anxiety disorder, a depressive disorder, an addiction, or another behavioral health concern, they need to consult with a qualified healthcare provider. Dealing with stress is an expected part of college life – but no one should be expected to endure a mental health concern without effective care.
Begin Mental Health Treatment in Atlanta, GA
Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers personalized mental health treatment for college students and other adults in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. Our treatment center is a safe space where clients receive comprehensive care from a team of dedicated professionals. Give us a call or visit our admissions page today to learn more about our programs and services.