College students are placed in a unique position during their four or more years in higher education. They are expected to juggle up to six classes’ worth of work, remain active in extracurricular organizations, take on a student leadership position at one point or another, maintain a healthy social life and, depending on their individual financial situations, work a part-time job to cover expenses.
Although a small percentage of students can juggle these responsibilities with ease, a growing number are facing the physical and mental consequences of stretching themselves too thin — namely, elevated stress levels, panic and anxiety attacks, frequent illness, trouble sleeping, and even sinking into bouts of depression.
While faculty and staff members seem to recognize these issues, little to no headway has been made in improving the on-campus, mental health care of college students. This could be attributed to academia’s notorious habit of moving at a glacial pace when a much-needed overhaul has to take place. Or, it could be because many of these academic leaders still do not comprehend these students’ positions.
Regardless, academia’s neglectfulness has only exacerbated the feelings of despair on campuses across the nation. Recent surveys have shown approximately 70 percent of college students rate their mental health as poor, and an additional 20 percent reported feelings of hopelessness, especially as each semester winds down.
Unfortunately, students’ lack of on-campus resources have caused the suicide rate to triple since 1950, with 1,100 deaths occurring every year. Additionally, one in 12 students devises a suicide plan at some point in their college careers, while 1.5 out of 100 students will attempt to carry it out.
To prevent conditions from worsening, students have taken the challenge of assisting their peers on themselves, organizing chapters of clubs and coordinating events designed to improve mental health on campus. The most prominent national organizations are National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Active Minds, and JED, which address and aid students in coping with a myriad of on-campus stressors — from one’s workload, to extracurricular commitments, and even issues at home that remain on their minds.
It is imperative that individuals outside the academic community continue to show their support for these young, struggling adults — whether by making donations to on-campus organizations, pushing for reformed academic policies, or simply by offering a listening ear for those in one’s own life who struggle with mental illness. No matter how large or small, every contribution makes a positive impact.