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mental health

Too many college students are afraid to take the necessary steps to care for their mental health.

An overwhelming amount of college students avoid any kind psychiatric care on the basis that it “isn’t bad enough” for them to seek help. As a result, mental health retains some of its stigma and Gen Z continues suffering from mental illness in silence. 

The Magnitude Of The Problem

A study done by the American Psychological Association reported that 27% of Gen Z said that their mental health was “fair” or “poor,” the highest percentage to say so of all the generations reported. The same study also reported that 73% of Gen Z think they needed more emotional support than they got in the last year. 

It’s only in recent history that mental health has become a talking point in American society. As psychology grows into a respected scientific field, the need for mental health help on a broader scale becomes more and more evident. On college campuses specifically, the need for mental health services only grows more intense. Over a thousand college students die from suicide annually, and about 6% of surveyed college students reported suicidal ideation. 

Despite these staggering statistics and growing awareness of the massive problem in mental health, college students continue to suffer in silence in droves. Many claim they don’t feel their symptoms are worth any attention and are simply the result of the college workload. In many of the most common cases, students might not even realize that their daily life experiences are actually warning signs of mental illness and that it may be time to seek help. 

Warning Signs

College campuses are notorious for normalizing certain worrying mental health behaviors. Many of these behaviors and symptoms could actually be signs of mental health problems that require more dedicated attention. Some of the most common symptoms are listed below. If any of these sound all too familiar, reaching out might be a good next step. 

— Feeling sad or down

— Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate

— Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt

— Extreme mood changes of highs and lows

— Withdrawal from friends and activities

— Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping

— Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations

— Inability to cope with daily problems or stress

— Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people

— Problems with alcohol or drug use

— Major changes in eating habits

— Excessive anger, hostility or violence

It’s also important to note that not all of these symptoms point directly to depression and anxiety — while depression and anxiety are the two most common mental illnesses among college students, there are still dozens of others that many students are unaware of or don’t know how to look for. For those who stalwartly claim that, though they recognize some of these symptoms, they aren’t depressed, well, they might not be. That doesn’t mean that the problem isn’t serious in another way, or that help is unnecessary. 

Where To Go Next 

The good news is, help is available: Every situation is a unique one, and while some options might not be available in every case, chances are something will be, and that’s a start. 

First off, start with a friend if the thought of seeking out professional help on your own intimidates you. For many college students, and even those of other demographics, the idea of seeking out a mental health professional is too much of a hurdle to even try. Telling even just one trusted friend or family member will help chip away at the power mental illness takes over lives. 

7 Cups of Tea is a great alternative for those who don’t feel they have anyone in their personal life to turn to, but who really just need a listening ear. More information on the site can be found here, but the gist of it is that trained listeners stand by on the site’s chat service, ready to provide a sounding board for anyone who needs it. 7 Cups of Tea also provides affordable online counseling by licensed counselors for those who require more help. 

Online forums like the one on Psych Central can provide community and remind those with mental illnesses that they are not alone. While this forum won’t help in the same way a professional could, it’s still a helpful tool to use alongside counseling or as a stopping point on the way to getting more dedicated help. Community can be vital in the fight against mental illness, and many on sites like Psych Central are veterans with coping tactics they’re more than willing to share. 

For those in high school or university, school counseling is often available for free. The extent of the service may vary based on the school, but in general, campuses provide licensed mental health professionals that students can see, usually for 3-6 weeks at a time. 

Healthcare providers like Kaiser often have counseling services and opportunities for classes with therapists. In-person support groups can offer community on a more tangible level than online forums are capable of, and are often led by trained counselors, too.

Religious groups are known to offer spiritually-centered counseling on a one-time-only or more regular basis. The specifics will depend on your place of worship, but if you’re part of a religious organization, it’s another place to go for help. 

Private practices offer some of the most specialized help available, and sites like Psychology Today can help put people in touch with therapists close to them. While therapy through a private practice can get expensive, therapists are expected to offer some of their services for free by their licensure board as a gesture of goodwill. Additionally, check if your job has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or if you’re eligible for any student discounts. Many therapists offer what’s known as a “sliding scale,” where they’ll work with clients to find a price that works for them. They’ll ask how much you feel you can pay and may ask for how much you make, and could offer discounts of 50% or even 70%, depending on the therapist. 

Even if you feel backed into a corner, help is available. What’s more, it’s available to you, now, even if you think you don’t really deserve it. The way for Gen Z to take back its mental health is by reaching out and getting help, and it can be done, starting one person at a time.

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