Taking Care of Your Mental Health in College

A recent article in the New York Times shone a light recently on how mental health issues involving college students appear to be on the rise. Students are increasingly struggling to manage the stress of finals weeks effectively, grappling with thoughts of suicide, and loading up on anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants, the article indicated. Psychological emergencies are also becoming more frequent, the article noted. The report should really get college students thinking seriously about how they are managing their own mental health, from the seemingly small things like stress management to the bigger issues, such as suicidal thoughts.

The first step is seeking help as soon as you realize you have a problem or when someone you care about suggests you have a problem. You college counseling center is highly equipped to help and/or provide referrals for students who have alcohol and drug problems, eating disorders, and those who engage in cutting or other forms of self-injury. Your college counseling center can also arrange for you to meet with physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals who are licensed to diagnose and prescribe medications to treat many mental health problems, such as depression, PTSD and bipolar disorder. Trained professionals can equip you with sound advice for managing and living with these serious mental health conditions.

Many students also need help working through a trauma experience, such as rape, assault, a car accident, witnessing a violent crime or any other serious event that has a strong negative impact on a student’s mental well-being. Counseling can be a great resource for students working through the emotions associated with trauma, and if a crime has been committed against the student, counselors will even encourage you to speak with police about bringing the situation to justice.

Finally, it’s also important to get help when your stress levels are spiraling out of control. Students often don’t seek help for stress because they perceive it as normal, especially during midterms and finals. And yes, a certain amount of stress is to be expected. It’s not normal, though, if you are unable to sleep, find yourself feeling ill or are losing your ability to concentrate in class or in outside study. Your stress may or may not be associated with your schoolwork—it could have to do with a recent breakup, family troubles or job loss. Whatever it is that’s keeping you up at night, decide to talk about it with a counselor or a trusted friend or family member instead of suffering in silence.