Among college students, mental health issues are prevalent. Recent statistics highlight the fact
that 50% of students rate their mental health as below average or poor, while 30% reported
trouble with school work because of a mental health issue. Depression or anxiety, substance
use or eating disorders are common among college students for a handful of reasons, including
the pressure they are put under to perform and the transition away from a built-in support
system from family.
Regardless of the type of mental health issue at play for a college student, taking care of one’s
self in college and beyond should be a high priority. Fortunately, college students have several
ways to help cope with mental health concerns, both on campus and off. If you are struggling
with mental health issues, seek help as soon as possible. There is no need to suffer alone.
Mental Health Challenges College Students Deal With
Although mental health challenges among college students vary widely from one person to the
next, depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, and eating disorders are the most prevalent.
An estimated 44% of college students in America report symptoms of depression. These
symptoms include feelings of hopelessness or prolonged sadness, sleeplessness, loss of interest
in social activities, and fatigue that results in a loss of motivation. Depression can be triggered
by several different factors, including a transition away from family or adjusting to a new
lifestyle on campus.
Anxiety is another common mental health challenge among college students. Feelings of being
overwhelmed impacted 85% of college students in a recent survey, due in part to high stress
levels. The pressure to make new friends, balance social and school activities, and determine a
career path can generate anxious feelings quickly among college students.
Drug and alcohol use disorders can also rear their ugly head in college. The National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recently reported that nearly 20% of college students meet the
criteria for alcohol use disorder, meaning they drink to excess regularly. This has a serious
impact on physical and mental health, and makes achieving goals in college a challenge.
Eating disorders are also common among college students, although this is a more predominant
issue among women. An eating disorder may involve binging and purging, or extreme dieting
combined with excessive or unhealthy working out. Like substance use disorders, eating
disorders can wreak havoc on one’s personal and academic life.
Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health In College
When mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, substance use or eating disorders are
present and impacting a student’s life, steps should be taken to help ease the issue at hand.
This starts with understanding that mental health issues are not something to be ashamed of,
nor should getting help be an embarrassing task. College campuses are doing more than ever to
provide support for students and their mental health throughout their years at school, including
offering free support groups, resources for therapy, and access to mental health professionals
both on and off school grounds. Also, college students can take the following steps to improve
their mental health.
Taking care of your physical health – Having a steady routine of exercise and a balanced
diet can go a long way toward both physical and mental health. Studies show that these
simple but important aspects of daily life have a significant impact on minimizing the
symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even substance use disorder.
Take a break – college is a high-pressure environment, and without a break from it all,
students can develop mental health issues. Planning breaks from campus altogether, or
a respite from studying here and there, are necessary tools in combatting mental health
Get support – whether through friends, family, or a mental health professional, having a
strong foundation of support is necessary when mental health issues arise. Don’t be
afraid to seek out the support you need from those around you.
Set realistic goals – whether academically or personally, having achievable goals is
necessary for keeping the stress of college at bay. If you’re unsure if your goals are
realistic, speak with a coach or a counselor on or off campus and adjust as needed over
Keep track of your finances – Since the cost of college isn’t getting any cheaper, it’s
important to set a budget as a student and have awareness of your finances so you can
plan ahead and don’t have any surprise financial emergencies that might induce stress.
The Bottom Line
Throughout your college years, it is crucial to focus some of your energy on keeping your
mental health in good shape.
Although it may not be possible to prevent challenges such as depression, anxiety, substance
use, or eating disorders from appearing in college, there are several things you can do to help
combat these issues. From maintaining good physical health and keeping goals in check, to
seeking out the support you need from those around you or professional sources, mental
health issues do not have to consume your life.
Understand the symptoms of mental health issues for yourself and others close to you, and
know you aren’t alone in getting the help you need as a college student.
Andy Kearns is a Content Analyst for LendEDU and works to produce personal finance content
to help educate consumers across the globe. When he’s not writing, you can find Andy cheering
on the new and improved Lakers, or somewhere on a beach.