Your mental health may not be the first thing you think about when you start college, but it can significantly impact your success and enjoyment during your education.
Mental health resources for college students can be integral to maintaining your health and well-being. However, many factors can help support your mental health during college. Read on for some mental health tips for students.
A well-rounded education should not only focus on academic achievement but also prioritize the holistic well-being of students. By addressing these factors, schools can play a vital role in promoting positive mental health outcomes for their students.
Major transitions such as starting a new school, moving to a different grade, or preparing for college can be stressful. The quality of your mental health affects how you think, feel, and act. It also influences how you cope with stress, relate to others, and make choices. Some of the factors that can affect your mental health are:
Pressure to Perform Well
You may have high expectations of yourself. Plus, your parents, teachers, and peers may expect you to achieve good grades, get into a prestigious college, or pursue a competitive career. This can put a lot of pressure on you, affecting your self-esteem, motivation, and mental well-being.
Pro Tip: Check out our guide on overcoming test anxiety and mentally preparing to write SAT/ACT papers.
Exposure to Adversity
Struggling in college, whether due to academic setbacks or financial troubles, can lead to adverse situations. Likewise, facing poverty, abuse, violence, discrimination, or bullying can harm your mental health. These experiences can cause trauma, depression, anger, or fear, affecting your learning and growth.
Lack of Support and Resources
You may lack adequate mental health care, counseling, or guidance. You may also lack social support from your family, friends, or teachers, who may not understand or acknowledge your mental health needs. This can lead to isolation, loneliness, and helplessness.
Changes and Transitions
You may undergo various changes and transitions during adolescence and young adulthood, such as puberty, identity formation, peer pressure, romantic relationships, sexual orientation, career choices, or moving away from home.
These changes can be exciting but also stressful and confusing. They can affect your mood, self-image, and sense of belonging.
Anxiety and depression in college students are significant problems across the U.S. The National Education Association (NEA) says a significant portion of today’s college students meet the criteria for at least one mental health issue. Increasingly, the financial burden of pursuing higher education can profoundly affect students’ mental well-being.
The need to take on student loans to pay for education can result in substantial debt that can persist for years or even decades after graduation. You may feel overwhelmed and financially insecure, impacting your mental health long after leaving school.
Moreover, working multiple jobs to afford education can limit your participation in extracurricular activities, hobbies, and social events. This can result in feelings of isolation and a lack of work-life balance, negatively impacting your mental health.
Note: Check out our curated guides to help yourself get financial aid or grants to help ease the monetary burdens of college.
A healthy mind is a sharp mind, and students who prioritize their mental health often find themselves better equipped to tackle the challenges of college coursework.
They’re better able to handle setbacks, address challenges, and find innovative solutions to complex problems, skills that are invaluable inside and outside the classroom. This translates into improved grades and more robust academic performance.
The impact of good mental health resources for college students extends far beyond the college years. Graduates who prioritize their mental well-being are better positioned for success in their careers and personal lives. They have honed the ability to manage stress, maintain work-life balance, and sustain healthy relationships, all of which are critical for a fulfilling life beyond academia.
But the good news is that you can help yourself improve your mental and emotional health if you take action and use available resources.
Some may avoid seeking help due to concerns about the cost of therapy or counseling services. The financial strain of education can make it difficult for some students to access the mental health resources they need.
But here are some cost-effective or free mental health resources for college students to get help in times of need:
Most colleges and universities offer counseling services on campus. These services provide you with access to trained therapists and counselors who can help you navigate academic, personal, and emotional challenges.
Peer Support Groups
Many colleges have peer support groups or student organizations focused on mental health. These groups provide a safe space to share your experiences and support one another.
During your college orientation week, take a campus tour and check out support groups, clubs, or similar facilities or activities to meet new people and make healthy connections.
Mental Health Hotlines
If you are uncertain about how to interact with a friend or classmate with poor mental health, you can seek guidance from online suicide prevention initiatives, such as Crisis Connections, to get recommendations.
Online Counseling Services
Some colleges provide access to online counseling platforms or telehealth services, allowing students to connect remotely with mental health professionals.
Note: Online programs may also have more resources now that colleges are putting a premium on mental health. These resources help you manage your emotions and cope with stress during your academic journey.
Wellness centers on campus often offer resources and programs to help you manage stress, improve your well-being, and develop healthy habits.
Academic advisors can help you manage your workload, set academic goals, and create a balanced schedule to reduce stress.
Workshops and Seminars
Colleges may host workshops and seminars on stress management, mindfulness, and coping strategies. These can provide valuable tools for managing your mental health.
Campus health centers can provide medical and psychiatric services, including medication management.
Apps and Online Resources
There are various mental health resources for college students, including apps and online resources designed specifically for college students. These can help with relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and tracking mood and progress. Some popular free ones include 7 Cups, Meomind, and MindShift.
Supportive Professors and Staff
Many college professors and staff members are understanding and willing to provide support when you face challenges. Feel free to reach out to them for guidance or accommodation if necessary.
Outside campus, explore local mental health resources for college students, such as community health centers, support groups, and crisis intervention services.
Self-Help Books and Material
College bookstores and libraries often carry self-help books and materials on mental health, stress management, and personal development.
Student Disability Services
If you have a diagnosed mental health condition, contact your college’s disability services office to discuss accommodations supporting your academic success.
In a study conducted by the American College Health Association (ACHA), 34% of participating students reported anxiety, 24% reported depression, and 40% reported stress to have affected their academic performance and ability to learn.
Here are some common mental health problems you might face as a student, their symptoms, and ways to deal with each of them:
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry, and tension. It can range from mild to severe and manifest in various physical and emotional ways.
While stress and anxiety can sometimes be helpful motivators to accomplish daunting tasks, unmanaged anxiety can interfere with your daily life and affect your academic progress.
- Rapid heartbeat
- Muscle tension
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and headaches
Ways to deal with anxiety and stress:
- Practice deep relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
- Engage in regular physical exercise.
- Get enough sleep.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
- Aggressive thoughts toward others or self
- Having things symmetrical or in perfect order
- Excessive cleaning and handwashing
- Repeatedly checking on something (e.g., checking if the door is locked)
- Compulsive counting
Ways to deal with OCD:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Exposure and response prevention (ERP)
- Medication prescribed by a doctor
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. It’s characterized by persistent inattention and hyperactivity that can interfere with your daily functioning and quality of life.
- Trouble staying focused on tasks or activities
- Excessive talking and interrupting others
- Difficulty waiting their turn in games or group activities
- Often fidgeting with hands or feet or squirming while seated
Ways to deal with ADHD:
- Develop a routine and stick to it.
- Break tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Use tools such as calendars, reminders, and timers to stay organized and manage time effectively.
- Seek support from teachers, employers, friends, family, or a mental health professional.
Depression in College Students
Depression is a mood disorder that can affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities. It can cause sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
- Persistent sadness or anxiousness.
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism.
- Irritability or restlessness.
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
- Fatigue or decreased energy.
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping.
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
- Changes in appetite or weight.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Ways to deal with depression:
- Acknowledge that others face similar challenges and be open, accepting, and loving toward yourself.
- Journaling or keeping a mood diary can help you recognize changes and remind you that tomorrow is a fresh start.
- Focus on the positive aspects of your experiences and write down what was meaningful or enjoyable about each day instead of generalizing your whole experience.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Everyone’s experience with PTSD is unique, so finding the treatment approach that works best for you is essential.
- Intrusive memories or flashbacks, nightmares of the traumatic event(s).
- Adverse changes in thinking and mood associated with the traumatic event(s).
- Avoidance of reminders of the event.
- Hyperarousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping, irritability), and
- Emotional distress.
Ways to deal with PTSD:
- If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, consider seeking the assistance of a mental health professional such as a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist:
- A doctor may prescribe medication to help manage symptoms of PTSD.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with your trauma.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic approach designed explicitly for trauma.
- Exposure therapy involves gradually facing and processing traumatic memories or situations in a safe and controlled environment.
- Psychodynamic therapy focuses on exploring and resolving underlying emotional conflicts and personal values.
- Engaging in regular physical exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, as they can worsen anxiety symptoms.
- Don’t bottle up your emotions. Find a trusted friend, family member, or therapist to talk to about what you’ve experienced. Sharing your feelings can be a significant step toward healing.
- Support groups, whether in-person or online, can provide a sense of belonging and understanding.
- Get enough sleep, eat healthily, and engage in regular exercise.
- Try to limit your exposure to reminders or triggers of the traumatic event, especially in the early stages of coping. This might include avoiding certain places, people, or media content that reminds you of the event.
- Engaging in creative activities such as art, music, or writing can be therapeutic and help you express emotions that may be difficult to articulate verbally.
- Establishing a daily routine can provide a sense of stability and control in your life, which can be especially important during times of trauma.
Substance abuse is the harmful use of alcohol, tobacco, prescription, and illegal drugs.
- Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home.
- Using substances in dangerous situations.
- Legal problems related to substance use.
- Relationship problems due to substance use.
Ways to deal with substance abuse:
- Detoxification is usually the first step in treating substance abuse. It can be done in a hospital or rehabilitation center under medical supervision.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common form of counseling used to treat substance abuse.
- Medication can be used to treat substance abuse.
- Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can be helpful for individuals dealing with substance abuse.
An eating disorder is a mental health condition where you use food to cope with feelings and other situations. Eating disorders typically manifest as an unhealthy obsession with food, weight, and appearance, leading to harmful eating habits.
- You are severely limiting calories, cutting out certain kinds of foods or food groups, and exercising excessively.
- Episodes of bingeing followed by purging. Purging can include vomiting, exercising excessively, not eating for a while, or using other methods such as laxatives.
- Recurrent episodes of gulping large quantities of food, often to the point of discomfort.
Ways to deal with eating disorders:
- Seek professional help from a therapist who specializes in eating disorders.
- Join support groups.
- Practice self-care techniques such as exercise and relaxation exercises.
- Try medication prescribed by a doctor.
Isolation and Loneliness
Isolation and loneliness refer to feeling socially disconnected or lacking meaningful social relationships. It can be caused by various factors such as physical distance from loved ones, lack of social support, or mental health conditions.
- Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Difficulty forming or maintaining relationships
- Low self-esteem
Ways to deal with isolation and loneliness:
- Reach out to friends or family members for support.
- Join social or community groups that share similar interests.
- Volunteer or engage in activities that provide opportunities for social interaction.
Academic pressure refers to the stress and expectations associated with academic performance. It can be caused by factors such as high workload, competition, fear of failure, or unrealistic expectations from oneself or others.
- Excessive worry about grades or academic performance
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
- Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches and decreased motivation or interest in learning
Ways to deal with academic pressure:
- Develop practical time management skills.
- Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps.
- Seek support from teachers or academic advisors.
Sleep problems can be caused by various factors such as stress, anxiety, poor sleep hygiene habits, medical conditions, or medications.
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia)
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
- Nightmares or night terrors (parasomnias)
- Loud snoring
- Gasping for breath during sleep (sleep apnea)
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
Ways to deal with sleep problems:
- Establish a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment free from distractions.
- Practice relaxation techniques before bed, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation.
- Avoid caffeine and electronic devices close to bedtime.
Mental health stigma in many school environments can discourage college students from seeking help. The fear of being labeled as “weak” or “different” may prevent you from reaching out for the support you need. Schools also can influence mental health positively.
They can provide access to counseling services, create supportive and inclusive environments, and teach coping skills. Be proactive about staying mentally healthy, but don’t feel bad about reaching out for help if you need it. Emotional well-being can help you do your best in college.
Depression can affect students in many ways, including difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
Counselors can help students with depression by providing counseling services, connecting them with mental health resources, and working with teachers and parents to create a supportive environment.
Counselors are required to maintain confidentiality with their clients, including students. However, this rule has some exceptions, such as when a student is at risk of harming themselves or others.
Yes, several free therapy apps are available for download on both iOS and Android devices. Please check out some of the free apps above.
Several ways to track mental health progress include keeping a journal, using a mood-tracking app, or working with a mental health professional.