Going back to school is going to look incredibly different for a lot of college students. Some are going to be solely online, others are going to be hybrid, and even for those who are going back to a traditional classroom setting will still experience these changes.
College is supposed to be the best 4 years of one’s life. Unfortunately, many aren’t going to get to experience all that college is supposed to offer. In a way, students now are somewhat getting ripped off.
With everything going on, it makes you wonder how it’s going to impact the mental health of college-aged students. Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses were already becoming more prevalent in colleges pre-COVID-19, it makes you wonder what these statistics will look like as we enter a “new normal.”
Mental Health Statistics In College Students
According to CollegeStats, 44% of American college students report having symptoms of depression. As a result, many contemplate suicide each year. In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death among college students as it takes the lives of more than 1,000 individuals on college campuses each year. One in ten college students has reportedly made a plan for suicide.
The National Alliance on Mental Illnesses states that 30% of students reported that they had problems with school work due to a mental health issue, 80% feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities as a student, 50% have struggled greatly from anxiety and as a result have struggled in school, 50% of students rated their mental health below average or poor, and a mere 7% of parents reported that their students suffer from mental health issues in college.
What’s more, is that 75% of the 44% that reported having symptoms of depression never seek help for their mental health problems.
I get it, it’s not a fun conversation to have, but it’s a conversation we NEED to have, especially as life is changing more than it normally does for college-aged students.
How Mental Health Impacted My College Experience
The first few years of college were already difficult enough for me, so I can’t imagine what it would be like having to go back in the midst of a pandemic.
In the two years, I attended three different colleges. It took me a while to find a fit. No matter where I went, I just never seemed to be able to find the right fit.
I remember coming back from class (on days where I found the strength to even make it to class) and I would just in my room and stare at blank walls. By the time I finally snapped out of that blank and empty stare, hours had often passed.
My social life was non-existent. There was no going out to parties with friends or hanging back in the dorms with friends. In fact, I had very few friends during my first few years of college. It’s not that I wasn’t a likable person or anything. I just hated myself and never really tried. I didn’t want to be judged any more than I was already judging myself or had been judged in the past, so I just kept to myself.
This was the first two and a half years of my college experience. Mind you I took the untraditional five-year route, half of that time was spent skipping class and just in a mental haze. That’s probably the best way to describe what I felt – a haze that blurred those years together.
How I Dealt With Depression In College
During the start of my third year of college, my depression got really bad. It got to the point where I had to move home and make a 45-minute commute to and from classes every day.
It was around this time that I started seeing a counselor to help cope with my depression. After a few months of that, I decided to see the school doctor and got put on anti-depressants.
Now I get that everybody has different preferences when it comes to medication, but this is what helped me. I never wanted to admit how bad my depression had become, but when counseling didn’t work for me, I knew I really had no other option. I wasn’t functioning.
For me, medication gave me a sense of hope. I started feeling somewhat normal again and ended up transferring to my third school so I could be closer to home. There was just something about this school that felt right. It was a feeling that I didn’t experience with the first two schools I attended.
Right away, I began to fit in. I had gone from being a B, C, and D student to making the Dean’s List four out of the five semesters I was there.
I was also making friends and living that college experience. It was strange, I went from being the kid who was constantly picked on in high school and my first few years of college to being the life of the party at my last school. It was a completely different experience.
Managing Mental Illnesses As A College Student
So what does this little soap-opera story have to do with you?
Here’s the scoop. If you are experiencing any type of mental illness in college, talk to somebody. Don’t try to hide your feelings or act as though they don’t exist. This is not going to do you any good whatsoever.
Also, put yourself in a good environment. If you don’t like the school you are attending, look to transfer to a school that is going to be a better fit for you. There is no shame in transferring schools. If you are going to be paying as much tuition as you are paying, at least get your money’s worth and attend a school where you are going to thrive.
Lastly, seek help. Whether it’s talking with your parents, opening up to your friends, seeing a school psychologist, or going to see a doctor, seek help so you can get back to being you. If you’re worried about being judged, just remember that 44% of all American college students are experiencing similar feelings.
Before You Go
College is supposed to be the time of your life. There’s already going to be additional stress added as we are in the midst of this global pandemic. Don’t make college any harder on yourself than it’s already going to be.
Dealing with mental illnesses as a college student is challenging, so if you are experiencing any type of negative emotion, get the help you deserve. You will come out a much better person because of it and you will have a much better college experience. I promise you that!