According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential and copes with the normal stresses of life.
College comes with many major lifestyle changes that can be extremely overwhelming. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 15-24, according to the American Association of Suicidology, and while many students are able to overcome and adjust, there are some who do not have the skills necessary to do so.
As humans, we have a desire to belong and feel understood but without good mental health, this goal is difficult to achieve.
Life is a rigorous journey that never seems to go according to plan, and many feel lost about what they should be doing next.
There are an abundance of consistent stressors regarding school, work, finances and relationships, and it is very easy to feel overwhelmed or anxious, especially with what seems like a new tragedy every week and an apparent divide that exists within the U.S. political realm.
With all of this compounded together, who wouldn’t develop some sort of mental illness, at least for a short period of time?
Nearly 40 million adults in the U.S. over the age of 18 will develop an anxiety disorder, and an estimated 16.1 million will have experienced at least one major depressive episode, according to a 2015 study by the Anxiety and Depression Association and the National Institute of Mental Health.
The development of psychological distress can be identified by many common signs. Some of these behaviors include low motivation, missing class, isolation and poor hygiene. These are all normal things to experience.
However, when we are unable to pull ourselves out of these episodes, these behaviors can become more self-destructive, resulting in self-harming, drastic changes in appearance and behavior, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse and, unfortunately, suicide.
Spotting these signs and confronting this behavior is not always the easiest thing to do, especially when we are uncomfortable with how our friends may react.
However, expressing concern in an empathetic manner can go a long way in helping on the road to recovery.
In times of distress, feelings of isolation and hopelessness may develop, making it hard for someone to reach out because they are afraid they might be judged or misunderstood.
In many cases, you may not understand what they are going through, which is normal, but it’s important that you validate their feelings.
If you feel like you are no longer able to help, the best thing to do is refer them to counseling services, whether that be the Counseling and Psychological Services on campus or a private counselor.
It is important to recognize there is only so much help you can provide before your own mental well-being may be impacted.
Mental illness affects people of all ethnicities, ages, cultures and socioeconomic statuses.
It is easy to dismiss feelings of distress by telling yourself things like, “No one will understand me” or “I’ll get over it.”
Even if you have not been affected and none of this is relevant to you, it is important to be aware of how it can affect others.
No matter the severity of the issues, whether it’s struggling to pay bills or getting a low grade on a test, if it affects you so much that your normal functioning is hindered, the issue matters.
Take the risk and reach out to others. No one can read your mind.
It can be friends, mentors, family, counseling services or even support groups.
You don’t have to deal with these issues alone, because you won’t have all the answers and sometimes we need the support of others to get through it.