Mental Health In College Students
Written by Ashley Bissell on September 21, 2022
“I have to put my pride aside. I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. That’s why I decided to take a step back.” This is a very empowering quote by world famous olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, Simone Biles, she said this when the press was questioning her about taking years off from the olympics. Simone prioritized her mental health over anything else. Today, mental health is a big issue amongst college students, regardless if they are an athlete, musician, actor. Everyone has been affected in one way or another within the world of mental health. Over 73% of college students experience a mental health crisis. Over half of college students have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder in the past year. These amounts have been shown by The Clay Center of Young Healthy Minds. Click here to learn more.
What Is mental health?
When most people think of mental health, they think of depression and or anxiety. But they nigliect eating disorders, sexual assult, and even substance abuse. These are some of the most common mental health disorders that college students face. ⅓ of all college students suffer from depression. This depression often stems from loneliness and overwhelming. Never feeling good enough and feeling that regardless of how much effort we put in, we never see any results. People focus more on getting good grades than they do about what a person is going through. Everyone is told to push down their mental health and only focus on school work.
Transitioning into College
College is a huge transition and students have a lot more homework, activates, and other things they need to be doing. For many it is the first time living away from home. Most become unsure of the road ahead. With in the first year at a college 20% of female students report being sexually asulted. However, these are not the only people how have been. Sexual Assult has a long lasting effect on anyone who has experienced these things. It often leads to eating disorders, body dysmorphia, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Over 24,000 college students attempt suicide every year. Suicide is often pushed under the rug and moved passed and no one seems to ask questions as to why. When looking into it, it comes from a lot of different things. Why does this happen and what as a society are we doing that we can change this fate? These are only the tip of the iceberg of mental health issues that college students experience.
College has become Overwhelming
Majority of college students say that they become overwhelmed by everything that they are asked to do in a short span of time. I talked to a few students at Kansas Wesleyan University, all with different backgrounds and activities at the school. Halee Sweat, transferred to this school from a Junior College in Washington. She plays softball and is working towards a degree in Exercise Science. When asked what her typical day is, she says, “I have to get up at 4 am for 5 am workouts. Then I go to the caffettiera around 7:15 for breakfast. I have class at 10 to 10:50. I have lunch. Then go to my 1:10 to 2 class. I go to practice from 3:30 to 6:30. Come back, have 20 minutes for dinner and grab my school stuff. Study hall is usually from 7 to 8:45. When I get back into my room I do whatever homework I have not finished. I typically do not go to bed until 11:30 at the earliest.”
Halee Sweat says that some days a week are harder and longer than others and she gets overwhelmed on her longer day of class. She feels as if she has no time to take care of herself and it’s always about school and softball. Waking up at 4 am for workouts has taken a toll on her body. Halee said, “I am not getting the sleep I need to be able to function in classes and I feel as if I am more prone to getting injured.” Players often feel as if they do not have the time that they need for their physical health. Which often results in a downhill spiral of mental health. Physical health affects mental health and affects physical health. It is a nasty loop that once in it hard to get out. Athletes need more time for their physical health. Taking this time will not only help with their game play, but their mental health so they can keep being a student and an athlete.
Adam Lebish shows how he manages the overwhelming life of a nursing student
After talking to Halee, I wondered what other student-athletes around campus had to do during the day. How much their mental health was being affected? This question led me to a junior transfer who is going for a Nursing Degree and is a player on the football team, Adam Lebish. Adam has 17 credit hours at least a semester. 4 hours of football daily. About 3 to 5 hours of studying everyday. I asked Adam about how much time he spends weekly to focus on himself and his mental health. He paused and thought for a moment. “Now that I think about it, since this school year started, I haven’t really had time to sit down and take time for myself.”
Adam sometimes feels overwhelmed with the workload that he has. But he says that a majority of the time he finds ways to work through things as they come up. Free time is taken up by studying and learning the materials that are presented. Nursing students have to memorize and retain a lot of information that is thrown at them in a short amount of time. As we continued to talk about mental health, Adam shared that as the school year has progressed. He feels like his mental health has gotten better as there is always something to do to keep his brain occupied. He said that during the summer when there was not much to do, depression and loneliness crept in much easier than it has been coming in during the school year. Adam is also a activities director around campus and he believes that these activities with helping and being around people makes him feel better and helps to improve his mental health. Though Adam does not have very much time to take care of himself he finds ways in his work and school work to take care of himself.
Has Sleep become a secondary?
When a college student does not have very much free time, this usually means that they have not gotten the amount of sleep that they need. Sleep is pushed to the side as students are told that school work is supposed to be the most important thing in anyone’s life. Research has shown that an average college student needs anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep a night. College athletes need a minimum of 8-10 hours of sleep. Neither of these sleep quantities are often met by students as they have to prioritize things over sleep. Without sleep students have a tendency to fall behind on school work, have a harder time focusing, and their grades tend to go down. When grades go down, more pressure is put on the students to get them up, and the student falls further behind in sleep. This cycle becomes very dangerous and repetitive. Without sleep, students struggle with daily tasks. If as a society we prioritized sleep over an ubsered amount of school work, would college students’ mental health improve?
Jacob Brown Explained how sleep effects him and those around him
This question led me to a college student in the theater program. Jacob Brown is a freshman, planning on dual majoring in Theater and Communications. He participates in a lot of activities around campus, everything from theater, in the upcoming play, choir, to monday night alive. Jacob has a lot of activities everyday. When I asked him about his rest time during the day. Jacob said, “I only have about 30 minutes a day to myself and rest in my room. I have a lot of running around during the day and I start my day at 8 am and don’t return until 9:30 almost everyday.” Most days, Jacob has play practice from 6:30 to 9:30. The play this year is 39 steps and most of the actors have to play multiple parts. Jacob expressed that is is very stressful to play multiple parts in this play. “Learning and performing are very fast paced. We don’t have very much time to learn our parts and get used to them”, he said there is a lot to learn in a very short time. “I have to learn the lines, choreography, vasade, walk, and everything about each character, and learn to switch between the 5 or 6 characters I play very quickly.”
After Jacob gets back from his 3 hour play practice, he has about 1.5 to 2 hours of homework and studying to do. I proceeded to ask him how much sleep he gets on the average night. His response was that he usually gets 3-6 hours of sleep a night if he is lucky. Lack of sleep makes him irritable and cranky. He believes that these emotions affect not only his mental health but other peoples around him as he often says things he does it mean and gets very annoyed with people around him. When asked about how he thinks that getting a good amount of sleep would help these feelings, he responded that sleep would really help him in so many different ways. He would have better focus in school. Better performance in theater. As well as just feeling better both physically and mentally. Sleep holds a lot of balance in every college student’s life, yet most students do not get the sleep that they need to be able to perform in the best way that they can.
College students face many challenges both physically and mentaly everyday. Most college students do not understand that they have multiple resources around campus to find the help that they need. Students often fight depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and many other issues. College campuses need to provide as many resources for students who struggle with these mental problems as they can. What as a society can we do to stop the stigma around mental health and provide better services for those who are struggling?