Mental health – According to a new survey, many college students are concerned about their mental health and are considering dropping out.
Based on the survey, two out of every five undergraduate students, or about half of all female students, experience emotional stress throughout their studies on a regular basis.
The latest findings were announced on Thursday by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, a private independent organization.
The survey was conducted in the fall of 2022, and 12,000 people with a high school graduation but no associate’s or bachelor’s degree participated.
More than 40% of undergraduate degree students considered dropping out in the past six months, according to the study.
Some participants preferred emotional distress and personal mental health to financial challenges and academic difficulties.
According to experts, the adolescent years are a critical period for mental health, and college brings significant changes that can function as additional sensors.
Sarah K. Lipson, an assistant professor at Boston University and the Healthy Minds Network’s principal investigator, explained further:
“About 75% of lifetime mental health problems will onset by the mid-20s, so that means that the college years are a very epidemiologically vulnerable time.”
“And then for many adolescents and young adults, the transition to college comes with newfound autonomy.”
“They may be experiencing the first signs and symptoms of mental health problems while now in this new level of independence that also includes new independence over their decision-making as it relates to mental health.”
A mental disease affects one out of every five people in the United States, with young individuals aged 18 to 25 suffering a disproportionate amount of the burden.
For years, the rate of college students suffering from anxiety and depression has been rising, and the issue has only become worse since the epidemic.
In 2023, half of young adults aged 18 to 24 reported anxiety and depressive symptoms, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.
Breaking the stigma
Experts agree that mental health in college is crucial.
Lipson claims that it identifies virtually every long-term consequence that people care about, including:
- The future
- Economic earnings
- Workplace productivity
- Future mental health
- Future physical health
With this in mind, support is critically needed.
A Healthy Minds Network research from 2021 found that one out of every seven college students reported suicidal thoughts, which was greater than in 2020.
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The Fountain House’s College ReEntry program’s director of outreach and research, Julie Wolfson, stated:
“For a lot of students, this isn’t what they saw their life looking like. This isn’t the timeline that they had for themselves.”
“They see their friends continuing on and becoming juniors and seniors, graduating and getting their first job. But they feel stuck and like they’re watching their life plan slipping away.”
Lipson went on to say that it creates a guilt spiral.
Mental health specialists, on the other hand, pointed out the importance of putting personal needs over the status quo.
“There’s no shame in taking some time off,” said Union College psychologist Marcus Hotaling.
“Take a semester. Take a year. Get yourself better – whether it be through therapy or medication – and come back stronger, a better student, more focused, and more importantly, healthier.”
Authorities also urge educational institutions to help by alleviating pressure by enacting policies that make it simpler for students to return.
“When a student is trying to do the best thing for themselves, that should be celebrated and promoted,” said Wolfson.
“For a school to then put a ton of barriers for them to come back, it makes students not want to seek help.”
“I would hope that in the future, there could be policies and systems that are more welcoming to students who are trying to take care of themselves.”
Mental health therapy is subjective, and experts suggest that taking a break from school is not for everyone.
Monitoring progress through self-assessments of symptoms and gauges of functioning, according to Ryan Patel, head of the American College Health Association’s mental health section, could help in making the decision.
“If we’re making progress and you’re getting better, then it could make sense to think about continuing school,” said Patel.
“But if you’re doing everything you can in your day-to-day life to improve your mental health and we’re not making progress, or things are getting worse despite best efforts, that’s where the differentiating point occurs, in my mind.”
College counseling centers are struggling to keep up with rising demand.
Moreover, the mental health professional shortage extends beyond the universities.
Researchers feel that universities are well situated to provide students with a support system.
“Colleges have an educational mission, and I would make the argument that spreads to education about health and safety,” said Hotaling.
He feels that college teachers should be trained to recognize serious situations or threats to their students’ safety.
They should be aware, however, that students may experience a series of mental health concerns and should be aware of the services available to assist them.