Caryn is a mom of two freshman and junior students who are getting ready to go off to college. Her kids are not the only ones getting an education because she is also learning how to prepare these young adults to live independently and handle life’s daily challenges. “I believe if a child is well-prepared and has a strong faith, anything can be achieved,” she says.
Her freshman daughter, Janet, feels confident and excited about going on this new journey she calls, The College Experience. “I can’t wait to succeed; I can’t wait to fail; and I can’t wait to fill my lungs with the sweet aroma of my own life,” she says enthusiastically. Would you believe Janet is a drama student?
Kayla, who is Janet’s older sister and now a junior, has worked through the anxieties of moving away and getting adjusted to college life. “I’ve even conquered tiny living spaces with complete strangers,” she says. Believe it or not, that is not an easy feat. Kayla found that loneliness, fatigue, being overwhelmed with the rigors of classes, and even a good home cooked meal were “drop-out” issues that she and other students had to work at overcoming.
The reality is that anxiety is one of the top mental health challenges facing college students today. The American College Health Association (ACHA) reported that nearly one in six college students had been diagnosed with and/or treated for anxiety.
Depression is another mental health concern that affects many students, and is believed to be the number one reason students drop out of school. While it may be a common disorder, it can be quite serious by interfering with a student’s daily life by making it difficult to sleep, eat, work and concentrate on their studies.
Unfortunately, leaving any of these disorders untreated by a professional mental health counselor can lead to unpleasant consequences such as drug or alcohol addiction. It’s no secret that partying and engaging in alcohol and drug use are fairly common on most college campuses. However, when certain stressors affiliated with college life are involved, these “social” activities and rites of passage can become full-fledged addictions.
College stress can also cause students (men and women) to develop eating disorders without their even knowing they have a problem. These can include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating which can cause severe mental and health issues if left untreated.
Perhaps the most alarming statistic is that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students according to a report by Emory University. Further studies indicate that 10 percent of college students have actually made a plan to commit suicide even if it wasn’t carried out.
It’s important to understand that college can be stressful, no matter what the circumstances are. Students dealing with the idealism of perfection, feelings of guilt, and hopelessness can be overwhelming. Make sure you or your child/student take mental health concerns seriously. Talk to the campus counselor and get involved with support groups. Work with a qualified mental health professional who can help develop achievable goals with a positive outlook so that a healthy college life can be enjoyed.