A silent cry for help! Undergraduates are dying.
College is a place we come to enhance our education, to learn more about ourselves, and to choose our career paths. While most students live on-campus housing to gain the experience of living on our own, dorm life can be an intimidating environment. Yes, it’s fun and exciting to leave family and friends and arrive at college knowing only a handful of people, but it’s also stressful. Stress is a normal life process, and all freshmen will experience it. Unlike negative stress that can be debilitating, eustress pushes students beyond our fears to reach our goals, encouraging us to bring new ideas to our ever-growing world, like how to get along with a roommate we don’t like.
On the other hand, for students, who are unprepared to meet these challenges that quickly arrive going to college; these challenges can be draining. Mental illness is rising exponentially and is acting an epidemic that is spreading worldwide. Two million of our brightest youth want to kill themselves, and three-quarters of them are being ignored. “More than one in three undergraduates reported ‘feeling so depressed it was difficult to function,’ and nearly one in 10 reported ‘seriously considering attempting suicide’ in the previous year” according to the 2008 National College Health Assessment sponsored by the American College Health Association. Tragically, according to the Journal of Academic Health, most people who struggle with a mental health illness will not be diagnosed until it becomes quite severe. Many will argue that the mental health and psychological services are not needed and are a costly resource that needs to be cut from the universities budget. For the thousands of students that go to a single intuition, this service is the difference between them having an opportunity to function in a school environment and get an education.
Colleges fail in helping because they rarely promote their services. When this illness makes students feel different than anyone else. Many don’t get diagnosed because of the lack of thought put into the programs. If universities want to help students, they need to truly make students feel welcomed by allowing anyone to partake in learning about resources for incentive maybe food or points toward prizes. As stated by Medical Care Research and Review, “Perceived public stigma was considerably higher than personal stigma”. What this means is that people are more afraid of how others will perceive them. In the article called The College Mental Health Crisis: Focus on Suicide, Dr. Beresin writes in his research about how schools should increase their access to mental health counseling. He believes that we need to increase counseling services as many school still don’t have have or properly use them. Another of his ideas are creating a foster community counseling and support forum in the universities. By establishing these it lets kids feel less hesitant than trying to take to some an adult. These ideas are good because they allows students to be more open to expression and to try to reduce stigma that occurs with recieving help. Besides, University only advertises their services at the beginning of the school year. As a student who has attended both community college and traditional universities, I can say for a fact there are considerable differences in demographics and how they go about their educational services. In a recent study, the American College Counseling Association Community College Task Force (2010) found that 95% of community colleges have no contracted on-site psychiatry services, compared to 58.8% of traditional universities (Gallagher, 2012).
Many People ask is there a criterion to determine who has a mental illness. There are some symptoms to identify, but when doing self-examinations, it may be difficult. The reason it is difficult to determine is because of the many similarities between having stress and some mental illnesses. For example, in the article by Mental Health America, explains that depression and stress have similar symptoms like having memory problems, trouble sleeping, trouble functioning, and change in eating habits. Among these symptoms with depression comes thoughts of self-harm/suicide, feeling drained, feeling overwhelmed, withdrawing from friends/loved ones, and finally having negative thoughts about yourself. In terms of depression alone, A 2010 study conducted by the American College Health Association found that “28% of college students reported feeling so depressed at some point they had trouble functioning, and 8% sought treatment for depression” (Mental Health America, 2015). One group of students that are at risk to deal with mental health issues are those in the LBGTQ. The reason being is they face a variety of issues revolving their situation such as “’coming out” in public and be accepted by their identity. According to the article called Mental Health Matters: A Growing Challenge, minorities, and international students are also at a higher risk of mental health. “International students are vulnerable because, in addition to facing the same stressors as everyone else, they have to assimilate into a new culture and are far from their network of family and friends” (Brown, 2016). The reason minorities face a greater risk is because of the racial and cultural differences they may face in society as well as the financial problems. Minorities, in my opinion, have it worst because of the fact are less disposable to receive treatment. “Individuals low in emotion management competence are less willing to seek help from family, friends and health professionals” (Storrie, Ahern, Tuckett, 2010).
What is alarming is that there are critics who argue that mental health services on campus aren’t useful and have a slight success in the lives of students. This is inaccurate. Students with mental health issues depend on these services; to them, they are a necessity of life on campus. Without having this support, hundreds of thousands of undergraduates will have their lives impacted. The young adults will face even more obstacles as their resources get stripped of them. University students depend on these services which can help them keep them on track with their personal, academic goals. The journal called The mental health needs of today’s college students: Challenges and recommendations states “Mental health problems may also have a negative impact on academic performance, retention, and graduation rates. Brackney and Karabenick found that high levels of psychological distress among college students were significantly related to academic performance”(Brackney 1995). How it affects is mental illness’ such as depression can cause students to lose motivation to do even the simplest task such as eating, getting up for classes, and even self-hygiene. Anxiety another mental health illness can make it difficult to interact with teachers and other students; as well as function through the campus every day. In turn, the board of education would be adding more weight to these students who have enough on their plate, to begin with. Service like these offers a sort of relief to know they have someone who cares about them and checks on them nearby. A huge portion of Our undergrads would not have been able to keep up with the demands of school as well as their condition. Thus, leading universities nationwide have a worse reputation because not only will an abundant of people have their GPAs be lowered due to not being able to concentrate in classes but also Dropout rates will increase. College is expensive already; to have to constantly repeat courses due to medical issues it’s a waste of money that most people don’t even have to begin with.
For this reason, I’ve researched to try to discover any methods of coping with mental illness. I found that student’s primary means of dealing as well as some new techniques of coping with stress. When attending a university while suffering from a mental illness such as depression or anxiety; it is critical to keep yourself emotionally healthy. This means try to formulate new bonds find good friends to have your back but also maintain your emotional ties with loved ones (whether friends or family) close. The reason for this is it makes it easier when dealing with obstacles if you even fall in a rut, while you may not notice your loved ones can guide to in the right direction to get help. Notably, A systematic review: Students with mental health problems—A growing problem, just that. “Individuals with high levels of psychological distress might not recognize that their psychological state is unusual. They might not understand that there are effective ways of coping with the distress or know how to obtain help” (Storrie, Ahern, Tuckett, 2010). Overall treatments depend on the severity of the mental illness but for the most part it involves psychiatric counseling. These professions will assess your symptoms to diagnose a proper treatment, which may include medication for severe chronic illnesses such a being bipolar and schizophrenia. The key to treating mental illnesses is to diagnose and treat early on. This is why it is essential for students to take care of themselves when living on campus.
An alternative method used that has had the effective result is mindfulness. When individuals think about the practice of mindfulness otherwise know as mediation, they associate the world with the religious practice of Buddhism. The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology define mindfulness as a process in which that allows the user to reach a mental state where they are aware of the present yet can reflect on their sensations, thoughts, and bodily states. “The basic premise underlying mindfulness practices is that experiencing the present moment nonjudgmentally and openly can effectively counter the effects of stressors, it can help students remain focused and calm” (Hofmann et. al 2010). The way mindfulness can help is for students who used negative coping methods such as self harm, substance and alcohol abuse, or even have bad reoccurring thoughts , it can allow you to change your personality and curve your impulses. Now, these methods aren’t used for all mental disorders only mood and anxiety disorder such as depression. These methods should act as a reinforcement to what your health care professional diagnoses and shouldn’t be used without seeking the proper medical help first.
On the contrary, many students when dealing with mental illness’ take up negative forms of coping as mentioned alcohol/substance abuse and self-harm. “Approximately one in five college students meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder”( Pedrelli et al. 2015). Furthermore, about 44% of students binge drink regularly; with mental illness rising at an alarming rate these students are in a whirlwind of trouble. Alcohol is not the only thing to worry about on campus. The frequent use of drugs and other illegal substances are present. The standard drugs you will hear about and see are weed, cocaine, acid, pills (Adderall, Xanax) and even Promethazine w/Codeine (otherwise known as Lean). The blurred line between relief of stress and avoiding problems are prevalent in such an environment. “Neurobiological mechanisms in areas associated with craving, negative affect, and substance use relapse may be affected by mindfulness training” (Witkiewitz, Lustyk, & Bowen, 2012). Depending on the case and severity practicing mindfulness with the help of a medical professional, can allow you to revert bad habits.
Many have speculated that by having offered these services, it holds the university responsible and acts as a liability putting the university at risk. When quite the opposite, by providing mental and psychological health services it can help keep the university from lawsuits. For example, many students with depression may turn to negative ways of coping such as substance abuse and even self-harm. Nowadays, we hear about these tragedies happen too often in media. “Several institutions, including Brown, Harvard, and MIT, have been the target of lawsuits alleging inadequate or negligent treatment of mental health problems. One widely publicized case (Thernstrom, 1998) involves the family of Trang Ho. Ho was a Harvard University student who was murdered by her mentally ill roommate Sinedu Tadesse, who subsequently committed suicide. Ho’s family filed suit against Harvard alleging negligence by failing to adequately monitor the troubled student” (Kitzrow, M. A. 2003). Stories of instances like these and suicides are becoming more and more prevalent in media. Dr. Eugene V. Beresin, M.D., who is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School states more than 1,000 suicides take place on college campuses every year which turns out to be about two to three per day. With students suffering and losing their lives over things they cant control i dont understnad why no one wants to help. Statistics show that “80-90% of college students who die by suicide were not receiving help from college counseling centers” (Beresin, 2017). The excuses and claims made by critics are put to rest after this cold fact. It is as simple as taking initative. By stopping the services, universities can prevent lawsuits and even more keep the students safe while pursuing their goals. The risk of not having health services are more significant than having them because with tragedies happening it not only cost the university money but hurts its future reputation.
In conclusion, the fact of the matter is mental health is rising, and we need to take steps looking forward to reducing the amount present. Together the university needs to be more proactive in their approach to combatting and promoting the mental health services. Things need to change because if not we will continue to lose more and more lives everyday. Universities need to change there whole approach in those who have counseling services. By allowing incentives, this allows students to get to know symptoms as well as how to methods of treatment without feeling judged or intimidated. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s is trying to develop a College Screening Project to allow them to determine which students need assistance. Although having a program like this add up to be another expense at the cost of the university this can help prevent future lawsuits as well as attract more family’s knowing their kids have a some to turn to. I believe that after the Screening test gets accurate it will be a great tool for helping to assist those students who may not have the courage to speak up or are even clueless about their symptoms. After all College is the place to learn, strive to reach our career goals and grow up as we start our new chapter into adulthood. Therefore it with the expensiveness of college tuition the least they can do is enable students to receive the resources they need to focus on their classes. Not to mention, This is essential for providing a safe environment for all and avoid future incidents. Without the help of universities, this disables the many who want a chance at a healthy life.
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