College students are no strangers to stress and anxiety. All those late hours spent studying and worrying about maintaining a high GPA can certainly take a toll. Quite often depression can even set in as the daily school rhythm grows monotonous and tedious. Pressure to perform, to be social and to suddenly adapt to a new setting can easily push a student to the breaking point. All the described situations are likely shared experiences among college students and perhaps even expected.
According to a recent study by the American Psychiatric Association of college students who sought help at college counseling centers, 20 percent expressed anxiety as a top concern followed by depression and stress. The prevalence of these conditions may be why many students have become desensitized to seeing their peers in a sleepless, stressed-out state and may disregard warning signs in their own bodies. Many people believe that symptoms they experience are a part of the typical “college lifestyle” and will not reach out for help.
The fact that there is still some stigma attached to seeking treatment for mental disorders also does not encourage students to request help. There is always the major hindrance of public perception; people may have an innate fear of societal rejection or hesitate because their attempts to get assistance may be misconstrued as overdramatic.
Students need to realize that they could be putting their health in jeopardy by not seeking adequate help or confiding in someone. By ignoring symptoms, they are allowing the condition to build up and ultimately manifest in a more tragic way rather than releasing the tension a bit at a time. I know in my case, every week exams used to roll around I transformed into a pent up ball of constant stress and anxiety, not wanting to reveal my underlying feelings to anyone. All because I had assumed everyone must be feeling the same way themselves. Why would they want to hear about my issues in addition to theirs?
This is the exact backwards logic that perpetuates a vicious cycle of experiencing problems but not seeking adequate emotional release. This is when using resources available at colleges is a good decision. Case Western Reserve University, for instance, offers counseling services through University Counseling Services available for students experiencing any mental health issues.
There is no doubt that all college students have a heavy workload and maintain a delicate balancing act of fulfilling academic, social and personal commitments. Thus they need to be at optimal levels of mental health in order to put forth their best performance, which is why getting to the root of any arising problems is crucial. When conditions like stress are pushed aside, a whole host of negative consequences such as reduced academic success and reduction in overall well being come into play.
So the next time you see your friend looking a bit crestfallen after a not too great round of exams or complaining about ridiculously high stress levels after pulling two consecutive all nighters, maybe sit down to discuss the issue or refer them to appropriate resources. Remember, though excessive stress, depression and anxiety may be common in the college student population, they are by no means to be dismissed as nothing major.
Ankita Chakraborty is a second-year student majoring in biology and minoring in psychology.