Mental illness is common among college students.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four students has a diagnosable illness, but 40 percent of those students don’t seek help.
Kevin Feisthamel, director of counseling, health and disability services at Hiram College in Hiram, and Katharine Oh, director of the CSU Counseling Center at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, said it is important for schools to provide mental health services to students.
“This time in a young adult’s life is important,” Oh said. “They are trying to demonstrate their ability as students or workers and manage significant relationships. It is a time where they are seeing if they can make it in life and there is a lot of pressure to decide. Also, this generation has also experienced traumatic events, like school shootings, and have grown up in a society affected by terrorism.”
Feisthamel said, “Even the rise of individuals coming and seeking services across campuses have increased over the last 10 years. We get a lot of students with preexisting conditions as well. On the flip side of that, this is the first time students are along. That adjustment period is a big factor.”
Both professionals added their schools offer an array of mental services to students. From counseling, group therapy and coping classes to personal health managers, both schools find giving students plenty of options helps.
“(We) try to create a sense of community on campus, so students don’t feel alone,” Oh stated.
Feisthamel said, “It is about reaching across campuses and providing important information in the beginning. It is about equipping students with information.”
Feisthamel pointed out students can respond to their mental health needs by employing self-care practices.
“I see so many students that used to do a lot of fun things in high school and then they think (once they get to college) they don’t have time for it anymore,” he explained. “It is about integrating these self-care strategies. And, though some students do have self-care strategies, they should see to do it a little better and more regulated. This can increase their self-worth and esteem.”
Oh noted students can respond to their mental illnesses by asking for help. But, a big problem lies in society placing a stigma on mental illness.
“We want students to feel encouraged to reach out and connect with other students and seek support with other campus resources,” she proposed. “We want students to see that it is OK to have mental health issues and that they aren’t alone. Students can and should seek help.”
Both professionals said mental illness plays such a large role in college communities due to its widespread effects. This alone inspires many institutions to take these issues into account when creating a school’s culture.
“Mental health issues do not discriminate, it affects everyone,” Feisthamel said. “Equipping students with the best practices of mental health care is crucial for everyone. It can get overwhelming and we all go through it. Some people fall down a little lower than other, but getting back up and knowing it can get better is helpful. Understanding and realizing signs and approaching others is a good place to start. Having these services on college campuses is important to start the healing process.”
Oh said, “More students are reporting depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. If people are wondering what they can do to help, reducing the stigma of getting help is helpful. Let your loved ones know that a lot of people struggle with mental health issues in their lives. If someone is starting to feel depressed or anxious, encourage them to get help as early as possible. It is the best way to make it better.”