Mental health always matters, and although it’s garnered more attention in recent years, it’s still largely misunderstood or tended to in people’s daily lives. Most people tackle health from a symptom-based mindset.

Rather than practicing preventative care, they only address problems after they’ve begun to experience side effects. But what about those who are living with lifelong mental disorders?

Even with treatment, those who experience certain conditions will have to find ways to adjust and manage them throughout their lives. Does this mean they can’t thrive throughout college and adulthood? Not at all.

Young adults can experience the onset of mental illnesses at a higher frequency than any other age group. This is because most mental health disorders can start by age 24. During college, people are also introduced to new forms of stress and experiences that can trigger psychological and emotional reactions they never encountered before.

Mental Health Risks in College

Going off to college is one of the most anticipated and life-changing events for adults. They’re living on their own for the first time, gaining levels of independence they used to only dream of, and being fully responsible for their lives.

While the newfound freedom is exhilarating in some ways, it can be dizzying in others. For example, not all students are fully supported by their families, so attending classes can be a major source of anxiety as they begin to struggle financially. On top of homework and studying, they may be trying to balance a part-time job and survive on a limited income.

Dating and friendships are also another major source of stress for students. They’ll be thinking about themselves, how they fit in with others and who they want to be in a short period of time. Ending close relationships with friends and dating partners can trigger emotional responses that develop into more serious conditions if poorly managed. 

Academically, there is also a large amount of pressure to perform well and get as much experience as possible before graduation. Those who struggle with self-motivation or perfectionism will begin to struggle as they feel like they’re either too far behind or never good enough.

Rather than recognizing the hazardous effects of their perceptions, they’re more likely to lean into them or develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. Habits such as binge drinking, drug use, procrastination, and avoidance only lead to greater problems that become more overwhelming with time.

What Can Be Done to Help?

The most important thing a student can do is educate themselves about mental health and keep track of any concerns. Parents and educators can review a guide on supporting mental health in college students both on and off-campus.

Sometimes, people need another person to point out their struggles and guide them to the best form of support. But knowing how to intervene is crucial and being too passive can cause people to feel more misunderstood and alone. Being too forceful can deter people from ever seeking help even if they truly need it.

Open discussions at home about mental health and wellness should begin early. Parents who are honest about their feelings and make an effort to understand their children will give them a feeling of safety that can build confidence and trust.

Students who are taught to see mental health struggles from a clinical perspective will be able to recognize their own problems and be more likely to seek help rather than hide them in shame.

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