A Spotlight on Mental Health and How to Stay Mentally Healthy in College
For more than 70 years, Mental Health Awareness Month has been recognized during the month of May. The purpose is to raise awareness for how mental health is essential to overall health. With nearly one-in-five Americans living with a mental health condition according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the reality is that someone you know—or even yourself—could be struggling. The good news is one of the best ways to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month is to talk about it.
Vaughn College is starting the conversation by exploring some of the mental health conditions students are facing today, as well as the ways to overcome them. But first, let’s start with the basics.
What is mental health?
It’s not always about what you can see, but what you can’t see. Unlike physical health—which is mostly visible on the outside—mental health is an inner process that involves how we think, feel and process situations. How you handle a stressful situation or relate to others, for example, can determine the state of your mental health. If you’ve been struggling but are hesitating about getting help for fear of being judged, now is the time to release that fear and seek counseling. Not sure if what you’re feeling is part of mental health? Let’s discuss.
Mental health conditions
Most of us have experienced one or more challenging times in our lives and those times can be overwhelming, leaving our mental health to suffer. Millions of Americans experience mental health conditions. Some conditions are more prevalent among college students due to the stress of studying, juggling work and extracurriculars, maintaining relationships, etc. Some of these conditions may include:
- Eating disorders
- Substance abuse
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Sleeping issues and disorders
If you’ve been experiencing any of these conditions, it’s important to realize that you’re not alone. Internalizing and ignoring any of these conditions can lead you to feeling isolated, alone and with nowhere to turn. It is important to achieve mental wellness by finding a healthy balance between your studies, job, family and extracurriculars, while seeking the appropriate support. To learn about the wellness programs and activities offered at Vaughn, read our blog: “Stress Awareness Month: How Vaughn Helps You Find Your Balance.”
Some facts about anxiety disorder
- Anxiety is the most common form of mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America
- In many cases, anxiety disorders are treatable
- Only about 36 percent of affected people choose to get help
- Exercise is a proven way to help lessen the effects of anxiety disorders
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health
There’s no denying the pandemic has impacted our mental well-being. And for college students, this impact has complicated life even further. Remote learning has caused students to be much less social, more sedentary and more complacent. Even with the latest easing of COVID-19 restrictions, students are still feeling the emotional impacts of the pandemic. Some of these include:
- Relationships—Social distancing may have put a strain on relationships with friends and partners.
- Remote learning—Learning via Zoom can cause students to feel isolated, alone, and complacent.
- Loss of loved ones—Complications from COVID-19 may have taken the lives of loved ones which takes a long-term toll on mental health.
Healthy ways to improve your mental health
First, let’s start by saying that self-care isn’t selfish. Good mental health begins with being honest with yourself, your feelings and emotions. Here are some healthy ways to improve or maintain good mental health:
- Self-check-ins—Regular self-check-ins are important steps for reflecting on how you’re feeling and addressing anything that might be upsetting you. The goal here is to not ignore any issues but to work through them or seek help if needed.
- Schedule some “me” time—Life can get busy and overwhelming with studying, work and other responsibilities. Make time to do things that bring you peace and joy, even if it means setting boundaries with others. Remember it’s ok to say “no” sometimes. Whether it’s meeting up with friends, going on a nature walk or even packing a picnic lunch in the park, taking a break from the books is a great way to nurture your mental health.
- Check-in on loved ones—Friends and family may be struggling with their own mental health. A simple phone call or visit can make all the difference to helping them feel loved and encouraged. (And it may help you, too!)
- Form a study group or get a study buddy—Studying with friends is always better than studying alone. Even if you prefer to study alone, checking your knowledge with your peers can never hurt.
- Participate in on-campus happenings, events and clubs—Doing things outside of your normal comfort zone and meeting other students or alumni with similar interests will invigorate your soul and help you to feel a part of something larger. Check out Vaughn’s events calendar for students – there’s always something fun going on!
If you need someone to talk to or want more information on staying mentally healthy, we encourage you to make an appointment at Vaughn’s office of counseling and wellness. Vaughn is committed to helping you overcome any challenges and guide you towards graduating and obtaining your dream career. Need help academically? Stop by Vaughn’s Academic Success Center – it’s always open to provide you with the one-on-one support you need to succeed in your classes.
Other helpful mental health resources:
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Anxiety & Depression Association of America
National Suicide Prevention Hotline—(800-273-TALK) or dial 988 (available in all states on July 16, 2022)