Freshman year of college is your time to turn and face the strange head-on, and while a lot of good can come from stepping outside of your comfort zone, getting acclimated to this new environment can be daunting. Between navigating your new stomping grounds, juggling more homework than you’re used to being assigned, and part-time gigs to help pay off tuition, it’s no secret your first year is going to be exhausting. However, that exhaustion could eventually become a legitimate strain on your mental health, which is why it's good to know what
mental health resources for college students are available to you. Education is important, and the entire college experience can be both a blast and intellectually rewarding. But, in order to reap these benefits, your mental health has to come first, no matter what your academic standing.
According to new research published in the
Journal of Abnormal Psychology, one in every three college students around the world show symptoms that are consistent with a mental health condition. To say the least, that's a pretty big number, and it might seem shocking at first, but it's true. For the study, ScienceDaily reports, researchers analyzed data from the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health International College Student Initiative, which included questionnaire responses from 14,000 students across 19 colleges in eight different countries, including the United States, South Africa, Australia, and Northern Ireland, among others. The results showed that 35 percent of those surveyed are experiencing symptoms that are consistent with mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and panic disorder.
Despite the fact that plenty of
schools are working to fight against the stigma surrounding mental health, not to mention trying their best to offer enough mental health resources for college students, "the number of students who need treatment for these disorders far exceeds the resources of most counseling centers," Randy Auerbach, Ph.D., lead author of the study, said in a statement, which means there's "a substantial unmet need for mental health treatment among college students," he explained.
So now the question is, what
are the mental health resources available to college students these days, and what's the best way to take advantage of them? Here's what you need to know.
Check Out Your College's Counseling Service
As someone who struggled with mental health issues throughout her entire college experience, I can't stress enough how amazing a campus counseling service can be as a resource.
First of all, doctor-patient confidentiality is the same as it is outside college walls, so you never have to worry about your professors or your peers finding out if you'd like to keep your therapy sessions a private matter. Plus, if you're concerned about finances and insurance coverage when it comes to seeking help on your college or university campus, psychologist
Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC tells Elite Daily that "psychological services are a free service while you are a student," so there's really no reason why you shouldn't take full advantage of these facilities.
"Every university or college has a counseling center where there are mental health professionals who understand these difficult transitions and know how to help," Forshee says. "They are your best resource for assistance while at school, and can also guide you toward activities and groups available at the school to help you combat and prevent future mental health struggles."
Reach Out To Other Students Who Might Be In The Same Boat
One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from
the novel , when Cecelia Ahern writes, "Thing to remember is if we're all alone, then we're all together in that too." It's the perfect reminder that no one — not even you — is ever PS, I Love You really alone. In fact, as a freshman in college, you've got an entire class full of students who are simply trying to do the best they can, just like you.
At some point, your best friend, significant other, or even your professors have, or will struggle with, their own mental health issues, and according to
Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, the best way to beat the stigma surrounding it is to speak up and offer one another a helping hand, or, at the very least, a shoulder to cry on.
"Speaking with a support group of other students is a good way to provide support and guidance in the early months of college," Glatter tells Elite Daily over email. "Just knowing there is another caring person there for support is integral in making the transition to the fast-paced world of college."
If you're uncomfortable opening up to a friend about what you're going through, try reaching out to your RA. Some universities, like Ramapo College of New Jersey, have
peer facilitator programs in which upperclassmen are assigned groups of freshman, and act as a kind of mentor and resource. Talking to other students about their experience might really help you through your own adjustment period.
Join/Create A Mental Health Club At Your School
You might not feel physically ill, but when your mental health suffers, so does the rest of your body.
Mental health and physical health are two-fold: One reflects the other, so you when you need time to rest and decompress, Heather Senior Monroe, LCSW, director of program development at Newport Academy, suggests you take it. "It’s OK to take a mental health break," Monroe tells Elite Daily, adding that it's especially important to place your mental health before academics. "Talk to your advisor and make a plan for a leave of absence, whether for a week or a semester."
But, again, there are only so many professional services available on a typical college campus, and they're slowly being outnumbered by the amount of students who are struggling. The problem is, if you aren't getting the help you need, it can be tough to figure out the best ways to cope. And if that's the case, where can you turn for guidance?
Back in June of 2018, the
Washington Post reported that students all over the U.S. are forming their own, on-campus, mental health support groups and events, and you can follow in their footsteps: Active Minds is a national organization encouraging students to jumpstart their own mental health clubs on-campus. On the organization's website, you can search for events happening near you, or take the plunge and create your own campus chapter. With the help of Active Minds, you can launch campus-wide Stress Less Weeks and connect with motivational speakers to visit your school.
Meditate For A Few Minutes To Check In With Yourself
Whether you'd prefer following a guided meditation via
Headspace, Stop, Breathe Think, another smartphone app you can click on and zone out to in seconds, or practicing yoga in your dorm room in between seminars, science says adopting some kind of spiritual practice can benefit your mental health by reducing stress. So it's really no wonder that Monroe tells Elite Daily that both meditation and yoga can be great options for students looking to take care of their mental health on a regular basis.
College campuses are beginning to recognize the positive effects of meditation on students' mental health, as well. In 2017, the
University of North Texas designed a brand new student union featuring a meditation room where students can go to regroup, Huffington Post reports. The building is located in the center of campus, and it's open 24/7 for students who simply need a bit of quiet time, or even a space to pray or practice yoga.
Meditation gives you the opportunity to get to know yourself on a deeper level, clinical psychologist
Michael Alcee, Ph.D. adds. "It's worth it to get to know all of the sides [of yourself] and to figure out how to work creatively and flexibly with them inside yourself and with a range of different people," he tells Elite Daily. "It's an important part of your self-education that will not only enhance and deepen your inner space, [but] will also allow you to be more open, understanding, and creative with a variety of people."
At the end of the day, your mental health is your priority. Freshman year of college comes with a whole lot of emotions, but being able to
recognize the warning signs of mental health issues, ask for help, and, ultimately, be kind to yourself, is the best way to take care of your well-being.