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How College Students Are Advocating for More Mental Health Programs

You may have been dreaming of “the college experience” for a long time. You may have been yearning for the opportunity to break out on your own, to begin living life on your own terms, rather than under the ever-watchful eyes of your parents or guardians. However, every college student realizes sooner or later that the college experience isn’t always all it was cracked up to be. In fact, for many students, college can be overwhelming, frightening, and even downright heartbreaking at times.

Fortunately, students, families, faculty, and administrators alike are increasingly recognizing the mental health challenges that so often accompany college life. Even more importantly, they are taking proactive steps to help prevent them, and it’s often the students themselves who are leading the way. 

Indeed, with college students increasingly advocating for more mental health programs on campus, they’re demonstrating that you don’t have to risk your mental and emotional wellbeing in the pursuit of academic excellence. With the appropriate mental health support, students can enjoy both academic success and optimal mental health. 

Destigmatizing Mental Illness on Campus

One of the most important aspects of mental health advocacy by college students is simply the stigmatization that results. Now more than ever, college students are opening up about the mental health challenges they face and the ways that college administrators, faculty, and fellow students can intervene with support, understanding, and evidence-based solutions, from counseling to peer support to medical interventions. 

As the discourse surrounding mental health expands on college campuses nationwide, so too do efforts to accommodate students’ psychological needs. This includes the proliferation of “safe spaces” on campus, areas where students can go to decompress when they need refreshment and solitude at the end of a challenging day or where they can find a listening ear when they need counsel and comfort.

True Inclusivity

As college campuses embrace the discussion of mental health and the cultivation of environments that support students’ mental well-being, they are also simultaneously creating a more diverse and inclusive environment. 

This is particularly true for students who may otherwise have been reluctant or unable to attend college due to a pre-existing mental illness. With increasing awareness and accommodation of mental health issues, faculty and administrators alike are better trained and more fully equipped to support the health and success of students with mental illness. 

For instance, college campuses provide an array of resources for students experiencing psychological and emotional challenges, including depression, anxiety, substance use disorders (SUD), and even hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders (ADHD). These resources typically include mental health counseling, student learning/academic support centers, and programs designed to provide individualized support for students with disabilities and those experiencing physical and mental illnesses.

Promoting Wellness

As students’ understanding of mental health increases on campuses, so, too, do opportunities for students to engage in behaviors that protect their mental well-being. For example, research has shown that the profound mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic include not only stress, anxiety, and depression, but also significant and pervasive sleep disturbances.

The phenomenon, often referred to as “coronasomnia,” speaks to the sleep deprivation that vast segments of the population are currently experiencing due both to the distress of the pandemic and the disruptions in the daily routine that the virus has instigated. Because college students are always already at high risk of sleep deprivation because of academic and social pressures, the amplification of the issue in the post-pandemic era means that college students today are at especially high risk of suffering the mental health harms of sleep deprivation.

As a result, faculty, administrators, and support personnel should educate students in cultivating proper “sleep hygiene.” This, along with the use of counselors, safe spaces, and other mental health resources is helping students cultivate a lifestyle that supports their mental well-being while increasing their chances for academic success. For example, college mental health programs are helping students learn to manage college stressors, thus reducing the risk of depression, anxiety, and burnout.

The Takeaway

College can indeed be a magical time of life. Students may be living away from home for the first time. They are taking their first real steps into adulthood. They are discovering who they are and what they want their future to look like. However, along with these important rites of passage come myriad stressors for which college students may be unprepared, including academic, financial, and social pressures. It is little wonder, then, that college students should be at risk for developing mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. However, college students’ advocacy for more mental health programs is going far to destigmatize mental illness on campus and cultivate learning environments that support students’ mental well-being, inclusion, and academic success even in the face of mental health challenges.

Huge thanks to Frankie Wallace for this guest post. Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about education, personal development, and technology. Frankie spends her free time cultivating her zero waste garden or off hiking in the mountains of the PNW with her loved ones.

Study in the US – To Go or Not to Go?

Your diligence and hard work have paid off. You’ve gone through the selection process and made your decision to study in the U.S. You have your papers, your packing list, your adventure in front of you, and you are ready to go. Or are you? Perhaps the realization is beginning to sink in that you will be leaving your family support system, your community, your friends, indeed, your whole way of life. You ask the question, study in the US – to go or not to go?

You may be going off to high school, where you will be looked after to some degree by either a host family, a dorm parent or another supervisor. Or you are going to college, where you really are pretty much on your own except for the assistance you can find through your deans, residential advisors, or international students’ office. In either scenario, it can feel intimidating.

You are not alone. The U.S. is currently home to close to over one million international students studying at all different levels from secondary education (high school) to university and beyond (graduate and post-graduate degrees), and that number is going up every year. U.S. schools and institutions have come to appreciate the internationalism, diversity, broad worldview, and varied insights and experiences you bring to their campuses. This time will be one of growth and with that come growing pains. But armed with the right attitude and preparation, you will be well on your way to adjustment.

Is this really happening?

While you may have been distracted and swept up with the business of applications, interviews, school selection, and improving your English skills in order to bring this study abroad dream to fruition, you may now be wondering if this is really happening. A lot of thought and planning has gone into making the decision to further your education and language skills in the United States. You’ve done so much research to determine which school best suits you and will help you meet your educational ambitions and goals. You’ve worked so hard on applications, essays, and interviews. You’ve contemplated what type of living arrangements you would most enjoy.

Feeling anxious or worried that you will not be up to the challenge?

After everything you have been through during the selection process, you can be confident you can manage it. All the people who wrote recommendations believe in you. The people who read through your application and/or interviewed you obviously feel you are capable of succeeding in this transition or they would not have selected you.

Try to manage your anxiety with self-soothing and affirmative thoughts.

One way to do this is just before falling asleep at night. Reflect on a difficult experience that you managed successfully and repeat a mantra with statements such as: “I am…

  • hardworking and smart
  • capable of succeeding
  • confident and capable
  • ready to leave.”

Attitude

You may have heard the phrase, “Attitude is everything”. In the case of a major life transition, this especially rings true. Having the right attitude is the key to unlocking the adventure to be just that – an adventure – rather than a chore, an obligation, or a duty. However, some of you may be making this international relocation under duress. Maybe it wasn’t your choice to study in the U.S. and perhaps you have already decided that you are not going to buy into it or work to make it a successful venture.

I can tell you from the experience of others that this would be a huge mistake and you would only be hurting yourself. It would be a waste of time, money, and energy to let this incredible opportunity slip away.

Actually, it takes a lot of energy to work at being miserable all the time. It doesn’t take much to begin enjoying certain aspects of this adventure. Look for the good, the fun, and the positive in everything and soon you will find life isn’t so bad in this new place. In the U.S. it is called, “Having an attitude adjustment.”

Adjusting expectations

Sometimes people are disappointed right away when things don’t quite meet their expectations. Keep an open mind about what your experiences will be like and try not to be disappointed if things end up being very different from what you had envisioned. Remember that all these experiences are serving to grow you. 

Special thanks to Tina L. Quick for providing us with this article. Tina is the author of two extraordinary books dedicated to international students going to study in America: Survive and Thrive: The International Student’s Guide to Succeeding in the U.S. and The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition. 

4 Tips for Making College More Affordable

If there is anything that everyone knows about college, it is that it’s very expensive. College costs are not affordable for the average family, and many people rely heavily on scholarships, grants, and loans to be able to afford their education. Colleges expect both parents and students to contribute. This puts a hardship on many children whose parents will not contribute. If you or your child is looking for a way to afford an education, follow these tips:

1. Apply for all the scholarships

There are scholarships for everything; grades, sports, clubs, essays, etc. Look high and low for scholarships to apply to. Also, look for scholarships specifically focused on students in your major or program. The more you apply to, the better chance you have at offsetting the mountain of bills that come along with college.

2. Consider loans, but understand the risks

Student loans can jack up their interest so that you end up paying way more than you originally borrowed. While student loans are an option, make sure to research the policies and interest rates of different lenders before settling on a company. The lower the interest rate you can find, the better off you will be. So get down and dirty and do some detective work before signing your life away to a loan company.

3. Consider the military

Although it is not for everyone, National Guard and Reserve military programs offer up to full tuition depending on what state you live in. The National Guard and Reserves are a part-time commitment for 4-6 years of military service. Enlisting gives you access to the GI Bill, which in turn, pays for college. Consider making an appointment with a recruiter to discuss your military options.

4. Get thrifty

Can you live at home and commute? Buy your books second hand? Go part-time? Get a job when you are not in class? The more ways you can save money, the better off you will be. So use your brain and come up with some ways to cut financial corners. Every little bit that you can put towards tuition instead of towards other things will help you greatly in the long run.

Although paying for college can be daunting, there are options to consider when it comes to payment. Make sure that you look around at everything available to you before you rule out pursuing further education.

Special thanks to Eileen O’Shanassy for providing us with this article. Eileen is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking, and you can find her on Twitter @eileenoshanassy.