When one thinks of the term “mental health,” a million psychological definitions come to mind. The stigma surrounding mental illness is one of good intention: the concept that if you tell a depressed or anxious person to simply get out of their heads, you can solve all of their problems. What many people forget is that mental health affects every single aspect of a person’s life, and it is not as easy as just “getting over it.”
Because so many college students have an overwhelming amount of stress to deal with, it is easy to toe the line between fleeting anxiety or emotional ruts and actual mental health problems. Students: There are scientific studies and psychological research that proves mental health among college students is fragile and far too often sacrificed. Don’t allow yourselves to put your mental health to the wayside in order to fulfill school duties.
Mental health is a monster of a subject — with all the different research areas, discussion areas and the overarching concern for those suffering from mental health issues, it can be overwhelming to even think about. However, for college students especially, mental health is a necessary area of focus. Out of all age groups, college students are most likely to set aside their personal health for other goals. According to Activeminds.org, a site that focuses on attempting to change the stigma surrounding mental health, “Almost one-third of all college students report having felt so depressed that they had trouble functioning.” Along with this, the site states that a major reason students have a higher likelihood of mental health problems is the pressure put on them to maintain a GPA or work toward future goals. Emory University’s suicide awareness page says that nearly 1,000 students commit suicide on college campuses each year, and this is backed up by research from the American Psychiatric Association and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
These are not just statistics on paper. These are actual people, and these are actual problems we face as students at a competitive university. The pressure to compete with each other, to achieve personal goals or to please parents can be causes of serious mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and even mental breaks. It is understandably difficult to be a student — trying to maintain your grades, social life and prepare for a future career all at once. However, it is also understandable that in dealing with these stressors, some students develop unhealthy outlooks on life. If you are suffering from anxiety, depression or any other mental disorder and are struggling to make it through the day, you are not alone. Emory’s fact sheet also said that one in 10 college students has considered suicide. That means that on Baylor’s campus alone, there are approximately 1,598 students struggling to make it through the day.
It is OK not to be OK. It is OK to struggle, and it is OK to think that you are alone. But in that, you are wrong — you are not alone in your worries and fears. Speaking from experience, at some point in our college career, most of us have been extremely afraid of not reaching whatever expectations we set for ourselves. And with that fear comes self-deprecation, self-criticism and feelings of isolation.
There are many options to work through these issues, such as the Baylor Counseling Center, which is run by 12 licensed counselors and doctors who are there to simply listen to you. The walk-in clinic doesn’t even require an appointment. For more information on hours and services, you can access their website. As they say on their page, they are there to help.
So to those who are struggling to maintain their mental health or are facing a mental disorder: We understand, we care and we want to let you know that you are not alone.
To those who have friends or loved ones fighting mental disorders: Reassure them that you are there, but do not try to fix them yourselves. It is just as unhealthy to take on someone’s issues as it is to be facing those issues, and mental health is not something that you can just fix.
People with mental health issues cannot just get up, dust themselves off and walk away. Fighting this fight is like dragging yourself through quicksand, and as soon as you think you have escaped, something happens and you fall right back in. Support, love and encouragement are all things you can offer to a person struggling with mental health disorders, but you cannot offer a solution.
Mental health is the monster under the bed that college students face. We fear failure, we fear judgment and we fear inadequacy. However, what we really should fear is forgetting to live while we fight to survive.