The Role Of Mental Illness In College Students Essay

College students are diverse in nearly every way. Students from every country of the world seek higher education. Of all the differences between college students around the world, they share one imperative similarity. Change is common to all students who are beginning a new path into education. This change results in many students developing a high level of stress for a variety of reasons. Stress is often the catalyst for developing mental illnesses a person is genetically predisposed to.

Up to 30 percent of adolescents have at least one episode of [depression], and 50 to 75 percent of adolescents with anxiety, impulse control, and hyperactivity disorders develop them during the teenage years” (Iliades). This means that the most likely time for a person to develop a new mental illness or worsen a condition that is already known to them is when that person would also most likely be attending college, which is often the largest transition in a young adult’s life.

This is true for all mental illness, but anxiety and depression are the most common among college students. Although Becker College offers a small amount of information on common mental illnesses in our Core class, there was limited education upon our arrival to the college. Offering students education on coping with stress and self-reflection could allow those who need to seek help to understand their symptoms and understand the resources available for them before reaching a dangerous mental state.

Although mental illnesses have plagued humans consistently, the incidence of mental illnesses manifesting in college students, specifically anxiety and depression, is astounding. “A 2013 survey of college students found that 57% of women and 40% of men reported experiencing episodes of “overwhelming anxiety” in the past year, and 33% of women and 27% of men reported a period in the last year of feeling so depressed it was difficult to function. Studies suggest that between a quarter and a third of students meet criteria for an anxiety or depressive illness during their college experience. (Psychology Today). As a group, we were curious as to why college student populations are so saturated with individuals struggling with anxiety and depression. Since 70% of college counseling center directors believe that the number of students with severe psychological issues is rising, a need for mental health awareness and coping with stress is obviously not being met. National Alliance on Mental Illness did a survey on college students showing that 36% of students surveyed who have had a mental health crisis do not seek help because of the stigma associated with mental illness.

With more effective mental health awareness, reducing the stigma of mental illness and providing more accessible services, students at Becker College and any other school may be able to lower their chances of developing a debilitating illness or more effectively manage ongoing symptoms. Through high school and brief presentations in college, many students are taught about major mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. However, more common issues such as stress and the resulting of depression and anxiety are often briefly touched upon, but the stigma associated with mental illness is maintained.

Becker College already has a counseling center available with group sessions as well as individual counseling sessions. On the counseling center page it even provides tips for managing stress during finals, but if students do not find the page on their own they will not see the information. As a group, we propose that Becker College be proactive in educating students on mental health, coping with stress and self-reflection to catch warning signs of developing anxiety and depression.

Increasing awareness of mental illnesses and providing ways for students to openly talk about their issues will reduce the stigma of mental illness within the student community. Rising prevalence of mental illness in college students shows that students are not getting the help that they need before and during times of stress. With limited time commitment and at minimal cost, Becker students could be more prepared to deal with the stresses of college and be more aware of the ways to receive help.

We propose that incoming freshman who have not experienced the pressures of a college transition be required to attend a mental health session at orientation or within the first few weeks of classes. Multiple sessions could be run to accommodate students with varying schedules, just as the registration sessions are run with advisors. If the counseling center found it too difficult to organize these sessions as their own entity, they could run it during orientation or present it during introductory dormitory meetings at the start of the semester.

The session would include education on depression and anxiety prevalence in college students, self-reflection techniques to take assessments of symptoms of stress and how those symptoms can lead to anxiety and depression. Included in the session would be reminding students of the basic ways to cope with stress, like a healthy diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise. Becker College has valuable counseling services being underutilized because students are not made clear as to the availability of these services.

During the information session we are proposing, students could be taught specifically how to set up an appointment for a counseling session and given direct numbers to call during a crisis. This information session would only take a few hours of the counseling center’s time to present and would not require additional employees so the cost would be minimal. Since someone is always on duty on campus from the counseling center, having a flyer with a crisis hotline of some kind posted in all common areas on campus would give students a better chance of seeing the flyer during a time of crisis.

During common stressful times of the semester, such as midterms and finals, flyers could be passed out on campus, in high stress classes, and under dormitory room doors to remind every student of the hotline and counseling services. If the counseling center did not want to be directly involved with the hotline, a general crisis hotline number could be posted. In that case, the only cost and time involved with the flyers would be the cost of printing and hanging many flyers as well as the time commitment associated with that.

In 2012, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) did a survey of college students and a compelling 73% of students said they had experienced a mental health crisis. Of those who had a crisis, 36% of students did not seek help because of the stigma associated with mental health issues and inability to effectively cope with stress. Our best argument to change the current protocol at Becker College and for all schools to make changes to their counseling services is simple; the current practices are not working.

Since mental health issue prevalence in college students is shown to be rising, changes must be made to help students effectively cope with stress, receive help when needed and to remove the stigma of mental illness and counseling services. Upon doing research into the counseling services offered in other colleges in the northeast, we found many similarities with Becker College and its services. Dartmouth College provides online mental health assessments and a mental health specific crisis hotline.

Becker only has the Becker Police emergency line that will eventually enable you to speak with a counselor, but it is complicated to take those steps when in an actual crisis. A dedicated hotline at Becker would allow for nearly effortless help. Northeastern University had a particularly troubling counseling services page. With no signs of a crisis hotline or mental health information available, the stigma of mental health seems consistent with their counseling services page.

Although Becker College does not have the most incomplete set of services provided by the counseling center, it certainly shows some deficits. The most controversial suggestion we have made is making our sessions mandatory for all incoming students. Our group was unable to find a school that required students to attend a mental health information session, but that may be knowledge only available to current students at the specific school.

Becker College being the only one to require students to attend an information session may seem drastic, but a drastic response is needed to combat the struggles of today’s college students. Students may not appreciate the information at the time, but, students are more likely to seek help when needed if they understand their symptoms, are clearly aware of ways to receive help on campus and if the stigma of mental illness and seeking help are lessened.