Mental health is important. That said, the traditional college lifestyle is not conducive to maintaining proper mental hygiene. Late nights, lack of sleep, stress and poor nutrition all create and compound vulnerabilities to cause distress and potentially dangerous situations. One in four young adults from the ages of 18 to 24 have a diagnosable mental illness, and almost 73% of students living with a mental health condition have experienced a mental health crisis on campus. That said, it is possible to survive and thrive through college with a mental health condition, which leaves students with greater strength and resilience.
It is important to recognize that thriving through a mental health condition does not happen spontaneously. One must mindfully put in the work required to keep a mental balance, much like how physical health is maintained through external factors such as nutrition and exercise.
The most vital aspect of maintaining mental health is awareness of its deterioration and willingness to reach out for help. In order to do this, consistently monitor yourself for signs of burnout, anxiety, and/or feelings of hopelessness. Consider whether your room is messier than normal, your appetite has changed, or you require more sleep than normal. In addition, “Protect Our Pack” by watching out for these signs in your roommates and friends. Young adulthood is the most common time for symptoms of serious mental health concerns to arise, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder — of which one in ten sufferers will statistically commit suicide. If you feel that something is wrong, get help and do not let yourself get worse alone. The national suicide prevention hotline is 800-273-8255, and information on counseling provided through Student Health and Wellness on campus can be found here.
If services on campus are not a good fit, I urge you to find an outside therapist who can help. Many are providing services via telehealth so transportation off campus is not even necessary. Therapy can be scary at first, but it is easy to dismiss something as being “not your thing” without trying it, which furthers the cycle of pain and isolation.
If you find your mental health condition preventing you from completing assignments or exams on time, you can receive extra time through the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD). There is no shame in asking for accommodations that help provide you the same opportunities as your peers. It is okay to be a student with high grades who uses CSD accommodations; in no way does it make you a “cheater.” Rather, it demonstrates your ability to advocate for yourself and work effectively.
The same things that keep you physically healthy also keep you mentally healthy. Your brain, after all, is an organ that plays by the same rules as the rest of your body. School is like a sport for your brain, meaning like any physical activity, it is also important to rest. Seven or more hours of sleep a night, which is recommended for adults by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pays dividends by allowing you to work more efficiently during the day. Eating nutritious food and exercising also improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you have a mental health condition, especially if you take medication, you should consider abstaining from or limiting intake of substances such as alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. These substances can interact with medications and cause symptoms to worsen or even cause damage to organs in your body such as the liver.
I hope you are ready to crush this semester, because I truly believe you have everything inside of you that you need to make that happen. College can be overwhelming, but it is important to remember that your mental health comes before any grade or relationship. Take care of yourself, remember that you are loved and have fun! You got this!