There is still much stigma surrounding the topic of mental health. The shame and embarrassment in speaking out about it can be especially difficult when you’re in college, where it’s typical to assume everyone else has it together. The truth is, that’s not the case at all. Mental illness and related symptoms are increasing among college students, whether people are speaking out about it or not.
I spoke with Sondra Wilkinson, a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Knoxville, Tennessee, area about the growing problem and how students can best ask for help. Below are just a few main points taken from my interview with her.
Anxiety is one of the biggest mental health challenges students face in college
When I asked Wilkinson what the biggest mental health challenge facing college students is, anxiety was quick to be listed. As she stated: “Students worry about accomplishing and achieving their goals.” This makes sense, as young adults going off to college can feel pressured to succeed and live up to the high expectations they may have put upon themselves. It’s also common to for students to compare themselves to others, feeling let down if they don’t achieve the same things as their peers. This pattern of thinking is sure to create anxiety.
Being away from home contributes to high levels of anxiety
Wilkinson notes that being away from home is one of the biggest contributors to rising levels of anxiety among college students. As she points out, those rising levels can come from “learning how to organize their time, balance fun with academics, and making wise choices for themselves.” Being away from home can cause students to feel like they are in a crisis, as they’re suddenly expected to do things by themselves and make their own decisions.
Community awareness opportunities can help struggling students
This way, students will realize they are not alone, and that there are available resources for them. Wilkinson specifically notes resources such as “posting availability for counseling and discussing it with incoming students.” By doing this, students will be aware of the help offered, which may make it easier for them to ask for help. In addition, Wilkinson also says it’s important for resident assistants to “discuss resources with students in dorm meetings.”
It’s important to allow people to see that struggling is normal
Wilkinson agrees that there is still much stigma surrounding the topic of mental health. She says it’s important to “allow people to see that struggling is normal and that we all do it from time to time, and there’s no shame in asking for help.” This is perhaps the most important point. Unfortunately, there are still many people who feel ashamed and even embarrassed about their personal struggles, but by continuing to speak up about mental illness and encouraging an open conversation, more and more people can get the courage to speak up and ask for help.