23 Jun What Can Students Do To Stave Off Stress? — Mental Wellness Tips From Psychologists
Sprains, strains, and broken bones are serious issues, but they often heal with prompt medical care. The same could be said about mental health disorders—except it’s nowhere near as easy to spot these issues!
Since psychological distress isn’t as obvious as a cut or scrape, it often goes unaddressed. This is especially the case among today’s high school and college students.
Plenty of research shows that young adults in America are in the midst of a mental health epidemic. Both parents and students need to be extra vigilant about the warning signs of conditions like anxiety and depression. The earlier that students recognize they should seek professional help, the greater the chances they will learn how to improve their mental health.
What’s Causing The Rise In College Mental Health Cases?
There’s no denying that the mental health crisis amongst adolescents and college students is epidemic. In particular, a recent Boston University study found that depression cases amongst American college students rose 135 percent between 2013 – 2021. During the same period, anxiety jumped 110 percent.
According to the CDC, at least one in three American high school students now suffers from a mental health issue. A Washington Post report also found that over 70 percent of high school faculty members noticed a significant rise in depression and anxiety amongst today’s teens.
It’s impossible to point to “one cause” behind this multi-year trend. However, the COVID-19 restrictions have put a significant stressor on students. The break from regular routines and the lack of physical intimacy have exacerbated mental health issues for college and high school students.
However, BU researchers note that the COVID-19 pandemic likely accelerated rather than caused the mental health epidemic amongst young adults. There are dozens of potential variables that may be contributing to today’s mental health concerns, but a few issues researchers point out include:
• The constant stress of 24-hour news cycles.
• Economic concerns like inflation, rising tuition costs, and low wages.
• Excessive time on social media.
• Disturbed sleep cycle due to blue light exposure.
To top it all off, students need to handle the “traditional” stressors of passing classes, moving away from home, and “adulting.” Suffice to say, there’s a lot on students’ plates nowadays!
Monitoring & Managing Mental Health — Psychological Wellness for Students
While students may not be able to “turn off” the many stressors in today’s society, there are many ways they can be proactive about their mental wellbeing. Often, seeking professional help is the most challenging step, but it’s also the most powerful way to address a mental health condition.
Colleges often point out that students still don’t use the many mental health resources available. Whether students are afraid of stigma or they don’t know about the professional help on-campus, many young adults aren’t taking advantage of mental health clinics.
Parents and students need to know what resources their school offers for mental health. Many students prefer having a mobile app like Umergency for easy and private access to national hotlines and local support in case of a mental health emergency.
Everyone’s mental health situation is unique, so there’s no “one-size fits all” answer for addressing students’ concerns. It’s always best for students to speak with a licensed therapist they can trust. Typically, therapists use a clinically-effective strategy known as “cognitive behavioral therapy” to help get to the root of negative thought patterns and symptoms.
Beyond talk therapy, a therapist could advise students to adopt healthier lifestyle habits. For instance, there’s plenty of data that suggests regular exercise has a positive effect on mood. There are also strong correlations between vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and anxiety, depression, and quality of sleep.
For instance, many students in states with less sunlight have lower vitamin D levels, which may significantly affect mood. Conversely, students who move to a campus in a hot environment may struggle with “heat anxiety” due to dehydration.
A well-trained therapist should understand and address these potential issues that may have escaped a student’s notice.
Students Should Never Self-Diagnose! Seek Safe & Well-Studied Professional Care
Whether on campus or at home, many students are reluctant to seek professional care for their mental health concerns. Sadly, there has also been a rise in students who “self-medicate” with alcohol and drugs for conditions like anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. As we mentioned in previous posts, many students have fallen victim to “prescription pills” sold on social media. These “pills” are often laced with lethal traces of opioids like fentanyl.
Parents must create an open environment for addressing issues like mental health and the “fentanyl epidemic.” The less stigma a student faces about expressing emotional concerns, the more likely they won’t be “embarrassed” to seek out professional care. This can successfully lead them to address their mental health issues.