Are Our Colleges Flunking When it Comes to Mental Health?
College—to the naked eye, it seems like a dream. Being away from your parents, parties every night, and having the power to choose what classes you take and when you take them are just some of its many perks.
The media portrays college as the ticket to freedom. However, it omits the trials and tribulations that students go through during school and the mental health issues that many college students struggle with.
In my freshman year of college I attended school in Georgia. This was a lot for me, being 14 hours away from my home in Maryland. At first I was excited about being away, sleeping in as long as I wanted, and working toward my dreams. However, after a couple of months I found myself unhappy for no apparent reason and sitting in my room for hours with the lights out. My way of coping was watching Netflix and sleeping.
It wasn’t until I had a nervous breakdown that I realized that this was not the type of environment I needed to be in. I knew something was wrong, but I didn't seek help. Thankfully, I found a better situation; I'm one of the lucky ones.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness did a study on college campus and found that:
- One in four students has a diagnosable mental illness
- 40% do not seek help
- 80% feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities
- 50% have been so anxious they struggled in school
Poor mental health on college campuses is not a claim, it is a crisis. Many students begin to feel the stress of college weigh on them and experience things like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and even suicide. Students come in with high expectations of how college will be and are disappointed.
Sadly, this was the case for honor roll student and track star Madison Holleran, who was a student at the University of Pennsylvania. On January 17, 2014, Holleran killed herself by jumping off a parking garage a mile and a half from campus. She was one of five Penn students to die by suicide in a six-month period.
Many blamed the suicides on the competitive nature of college and the lack of mental health services for students. A year after her death, Holleran's family released her suicide note to People Magazine.
In her letter, Madeline apologized repeatedly and disclosed how she didn’t know who she was anymore. She went on to explain that she loved her family deeply and desperately wanted peace from her pain. According to the article, she had confessed to her sister that she struggled with juggling her school work, her social life, and running track.
People Magazine titled their article "Perfect Student, Shocking Suicide."
While the four years of college may be the best time of some people's lives, they may also be four years of financial and mental torture. Collegemagazine.com did an article on the top 10 most stressful colleges in America. The list is from least stressful to most:
10. University of Pennsylvania
9. Northwestern University
8. Washington University in St. Louis
7. Cornell University
6. New York University
5. Wake Forest University
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3. Tulane University
2. Stanford University
1. Harvard University
Since Madison’s death, the number of college students seeking help for mental health is slowly increasing. In its 2015 annual report, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University released data showing that that year, 100,736 students nationwide sought treatment for mental health. Students have increasingly reports self-injury, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts.
Although efforts are being made to combat this mental health epidemic, there is still a lot to be done. The best thing that we as a community can do is to raise awareness among current and future students. By doing this, we will be able to promote the advantages of seeking help and teach students that there is no shame in wanting help. Taking care of our mental health is extremely important because it allows us to be the best version of ourselves and empowers us to reach our full potential.
Energetic and ambitious , with a quirky sense of humor, Jeremie Davis is a sophomore journalism major with a minor in theater at Salisbury University. She first discovered her love for journalism when she started writing for her school’s newspaper. With goals out of this world, Jeremie one day hopes to be a entertainment correspondent for E! News or a successful actress. She also has plans to go to the Yale School of Drama for graduate school. In her spare time, Jeremie enjoys watching Netflix, belting out show-tunes, exercising and blogging. One Motto she lives by is: “If you work hard, you get to play hard.”