The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Welcome! The beginning of each year is always filled with an abundance of anticipation and excitement. Matching this excitement is the flurry of lectures given to ensure that no first year student drinks alcohol, plagiarizes, etc. After a while, the lectures become trivial, blending together into a big “Don’t mess up!” message for all to heed. Yet one thing that cannot (and indeed should not) be discussed enough is the ubiquitous threat of mental health, something that seems to thrive in the breeding grounds of college.
According to a Psychology Today, one in four college students have reported suicidal thoughts or feelings, while one in three students reported prolonged periods of depression. Worse still, bestcolleges.com reports that 40 percent of afflicted students do not seek help.
So why are college students so prone to succumb to mental illness? Reasons vary, of course, but likely factors include the change in environment. That is, incoming students are no longer protected by the safety nets offered by home life. On the contrary, they are tossed out into the sea of college life, asked to stay afloat while clinging to new friends, a new schedule and a new home. Social pressures like fitting in arise and add to the unease. All of this is typical for most students, however, so it goes without saying that these factors alone do not cause mental health difficulties. It’s normal to feel like you can’t quite keep up at first, because everything will be coming at you so fast. It becomes a problem when it becomes distracting.
The reality is that according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 62 percent of the students who withdraw from college withdraw because of mental health issues. What’s more, out of the 40 million U.S. adults that currently suffer from an anxiety disorder, 75 percent of them experience their first episode by the age of 22. It’s a real problem, and it’s more common than you think.
The stigma behind mental illness and mental health difficulties can make you want to hide what you are feeling. That’s normal, but it’s not helpful. The truth is, solving mental health problems is the same thing as fixing a broken leg or stitching up a cut to let it heal. Good or bad mental health is just a result of certain bodily functions. That’s good news for us students, who work hard to make our brain better. This means, if we do the right things, our brain can work to make us better, too.
So catch it early. The key is to recognize the dip in mood first, then attack the problem with the correct coping mechanisms. This is exactly why colleges have student counseling services. The best thing to do when you find yourself in a crisis is talk it out. For some, this can be managed by talking to a close friend or to a parent. For others, discussing a mental illness with someone so close can seem embarrassing and only be a source for more anxiety: thus the counseling service.
A healthy diet and plenty of exercise is actually scientifically proven to improve your mental health, too, so skip the Taco Bell and go for the Farmer salad. And bad news for tired students: drinking coffee is directly associated with overstimulation of the nervous system and an increased heart rate, which happens to be a recipe for anxiety. Skip the caffeine and drink water instead.
There are, no doubt, wrong ways to cope with stress and potential mental illness. Ignoring the fact that problems exist is not a good idea, although it seems to be a popular one. Other popular coping strategies include turning to drugs and alcohol, the clichéd evils of our day. So make sure you are aware of how you are feeling before you decide to deal with it in a way that will be detrimental to your health.
Miami has built-in facilities designed to help students with virtually any personal issues. If you ever need to talk to someone, the Student Counseling Services are just across the campus.
An initial consultation at Student Counseling Services is free, and the next three sessions are funded by general student fees. Anything above four is only $25 for each session. Check out Student Counseling Services for more information.
For additional resources:
Miami University Psychology Clinic: (513) 529-2423
Women Helping Women/ 24 hr Rape Crisis: 1-877-889-5610
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line: Text “hello” to 741-741