College students are told they need to have an astounding resume to show future employers they are well-rounded individuals.
So, students try to rack up as many accomplishments, certifications and activities on their resume as possible.
They take on strenuous internships, join multiple organizations and work jobs outside of school.
This is a recipe for overwhelmed and exhausted students.
With these societal and academic pressures, mental health issues are steadily increasing among these scholars and suicide is becoming one of the leading causes of death for college-aged youth.
Fortunately, students are seeking help for their mental health difficulties more than ever.
The more we talk about mental health problems, the less of a stigma it will be towards people who struggle with them. Identifying the signs of students struggling with mental health will help in aiding and support to overcome these challenges.
Signs Your Students Are Struggling with Mental Health Issues
It may be hard to differentiate the behavior of a regular, stressed out college student who is adjusting to a new lifestyle from a student who is struggling with their behavioral health. However, over time the lines become more drawn and it is easier to distinguish regular stress and anxiety from mental health concerns. It’s important for students to recognize and obtain treatment before things spiral out of control. As a support system for these students, here are some things you can lookout for.
1. Always late to class or missing class
Many students find the daily task of getting out of bed too overwhelming. These students may arrive late to class completely miss the lecture. Instead of missing a day or two every few weeks, students who are struggling with mental health issues won’t show up for days at a time. These students will often reach out to professors to seek extra credit or extensions on assignments because their grades have dropped. Also, these students may give their professors frequent doctor’s notes in order to get some of their absences excused.
2. Sudden dropping of classes or withdrawal from all classes; leave of absence
The students who are unable to bring their grades up after missing too many absences will begin to drop classes or withdraw from school all together. This will be easy to identify based on attendance records and low grades. Students may also take a leave of absence because they feel like there is no hope to finish the semester. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) surveyed 765 college students who withdrew from all classes; 64% stated that it was because of a mental health related reason.
3. Irritability or agitation in class
For the students who are able to get out of bed to make it to class, you may see increased agitation or irritation in their behavior. They may become more frustrated with their grades on assignments or tests and lash out at educators. These students may also become more withdrawn from class discussions or aggressively argue during discussions.
4. Students appearing to be hungover or under the influence often
Partying and substance abuse is a common issue amongst college students. However, if a student is constantly appearing to be under the influence or coming off a bender, it may be a sign of perpetual self-medication.
How to Help Your Students
1. Have students meet with an academic advisor to establish a routine
Academic advisors are a great resource that students could benefit greatly from. They are trained to help students balance their academic and personal schedules while keeping on track with graduation.
2. Encourage students to seek professional help
Behavioral health benefits are offered by most insurance plans and should be recommended to students by counselors, psychiatrists, administrators, and academic advisors. Most insurance coverage includes in- and outpatient visits and prescription drug benefits. Many also offer access to a nurseline and telehealth program, which can be a quick and easy way for students to get behavioral health advice without leaving their dorm room.
3. Educate, educate, educate
Students are away from home and may not open up to their parents about their problems. Roommates and classmates need to be educated to see the signs of declining mental health. Educating students can help them be a support system to others. Education can also help students alert proper authorities, if the illness has reached a dangerous level where the student might harm themselves or others. TheMighty.com shows an outstanding example of how a young woman took action to help her roommate who was struggling with mental health, and ultimately helped save her life.
In the context of mental health, students may believe that they are alone in their suffering. Showing statistics of the number of college-aged individuals who are also experiencing similar feelings of exuberant amounts of stress and hopelessness is much larger than they believe. Statistics could also be used to show the number of students who have successfully received help and completed their education.
One great way to educate students is through a social norms marketing campaigns. Social norms marketing uses real-life statistics to change common false perceptions of an issue.
The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) offers an abundance of awareness resources at no cost. You can use these or create your own campaign.