College: A New State of Mind

estherPeople often reflect on their college years with great nostalgia and fond memories. Having finished my first year this past spring, I am able to better understand that college is certainly a unique and precious time in an individual's life.

Last summer, before my first year of college, I tried my best to prepare for a healthy daily lifestyle. I researched nutritious meals and snacks, created an exercise routine, and committed myself to avoiding all-nighters. However, it wasn't until I arrived that I realized that I may have been physically ready to take on the college life, but I was caught off-guard by the mental and emotional challenges.

Some of these struggles resulted from academic pressures, identity issues, and simply the newness of being away from family and trying to adjust to a new community. My conversations with my friends revealed that I wasn't the only one who experienced such challenges. College seems to be a time in one's life that brings many deeply rooted issues to the surface.

In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that mental health illnesses are common throughout college campuses in America.

  • More than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year.
  • According to a 2011 report by the American College Health Association, depression and anxiety were named by students as top impediments to academic performance.
  • According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety (41.6 percent) followed by depression (36.4 percent) were the top concerns among college students.

Depression alone is difficult enough to deal with, but the fear of being a burden to others and the fear of stigma may make it harder for those who are suffering from depression or other mental health issues in college to reach out to friends and professionals.

I encourage college students and pre-college high school seniors to actively look into the counseling centers and different sources of support that are available at their colleges. For example, I found out that my college offers 10 free visits to the psychologist per semester. It is important to know and utilize the resources that your college can offer for a holistically healthy and successful life in college.

For more information on mental illness, what to do when you need help, and good mental health, visit our Mental Health section. This treatment locator can also help you find resources in your community.