How Students’ Mental Health Declines in College

Students taking a break at the cafe. | Photo by Niko Balkaran

By Shemiza Basdeo

In college, students face a significant decline in their mental health due to the strenuous workload and ongoing stress of juggling classes, work, and personal life. Students often feel they are pulled in different directions with little to no time for themselves, negatively impacting their mental health. Even during spring break, while there are no classes, work is due immediately after the break. This means students do not really get a week off to recuperate. 

The transition from high school to college is a significant change that many students are unprepared for. So, when they attend college, they face the harsh reality of taking rigorous classes and choosing a major that will dictate their lives for the next four years. This sudden shift is why many students usually face challenges with their mental health which does not give them enough time to process college life. 

Most students are prone to developing extreme anxiety and depression during their time in college because there are so many responsibilities that they have to fulfill and it can become stressful to take it all in. As a result, some students’ mental health is affected to the point where they stop attending classes because they cannot mentally bring themselves to attend classes when stressed or believe they cannot attain a good grade in the course. In addition, many students often struggle on their own with their classes because they may not know how to get help, or they may be too afraid to ask for help. This can lead to students dropping out of college or changing their majors, which causes them to feel uncertain about their future. 

Then, there are other students who need to work to pay for classes or due to personal reasons and this can affect their capabilities in school because their attention and time are divided. Some students will conclude that they will take a break from college to work because they need the money, so they end up sacrificing their education because they have no choice, which leads to immense stress and feelings of incompetence. 

Additionally, in college, students face challenges with managing their time wisely, meaning that most do not take the time to recharge and recuperate after doing so much and fulfilling all of their duties. Many college students have bad sleeping schedules because they constantly battle with time. They must submit assignments on time, work an extra shift, or care for their families. This often leads to students being burned out and after time, they start to care less about their performance and grades in their classes because, mentally, they cannot deal with the stress and anxiety. 

There is a widespread belief that students should have everything figured out in college to achieve success. This brings about anxious thoughts and overwhelming feelings when some are undecided or unsure of what they want to do in the future. Additionally, students face extreme pressure from teachers, parents, and society to be the best and achieve high accomplishments. In reality, that pressure is unfair as everyone’s path is different, and success is not linear. 

Teaching students this fact is far more critical than imposing unreasonable ideologies that will only make them feel inadequate or that they are not worthy of being successful. When students realize that the path they choose is right for them and that they should not compare themselves to others, it will alleviate stress, depression, and anxiety and make their college experience more bearable. 

“Mental health awareness is an important issue for all educators, who are often the first line of defense for their students,” said Nancy Barile, a teacher, in an article for Western Government University. 

Teachers like Barile have started to recognize the importance of their students’ mental health and experiment with ways to make the classroom a safe place to ask for help when needed. This will create a better relationship between educators and their students and increase their academic performance in their classes. 

Educators need to make counseling centers in the college known to their students so students can reach out whenever they need it. Not only should educators do this, but parents and loved ones should try to check in with students to understand what they are going through and make sure they feel supported and heard. As long as students feel listened to, supported, and cared for, it will help decrease their challenges because they will realize that they are not alone and do not have to struggle by themselves. 

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