College is a pivotal time in our lives filled with change and challenges. We are becoming adults… that’s scary. That’s why it is completely normal to experience stress and other things that can weigh on us mentally. However, with mental health issues being very prevalent in college, the lack of services and resources is shocking.
Take it from me, a very shocked student who tried to access these so called resources and was left very disappointed. I have so many questions: why doesn’t my college have good mental health resources? Why is there so little awareness? Why does it feel so lonely?
It’s the middle of freshman year and I am struggling. I’m stressed out, I miss home and I just need some guidance and support. Well, my call to my counseling office was one that ended in quick disappointment.
After asking about scheduling an appointment, I was basically told that unless I was suicidal, I had to wait several months before being able to go in. Obviously, I understood that people that are in need of more help take precedence, nothing about that bothered me. The thing that bothered me was that with a school with over ten thousand students, there are only a handful of councilors. Not nearly enough to help all students no matter the problem.
It was hard enough to pick up the phone and ask for help; getting denied left me disappointed and hopeless.
With a school filled with so many different individuals, there are obviously a wide range of mental health issues, conditions and illnesses that people experience. Each should be treated with the utmost respect and validation—so should each attempt and outreach for some guidance or help.
I was so shocked when I called the mental health office. I was even more shocked to find out that many of my close friends and peers shared the same feelings about it. We all felt like we were left feeling very alone—like our struggle was irrelevant. We also all felt like our reaching out for some help left us embarrassed and feeling weak.
I began doing some research on mental health resources in college and found some astounding statistics. Here are only some of the statistics gathered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness that shocked me.
First of all, 50% of students rate their mental health as poor.
Second, 80% of students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities in college.
Last but not least, 40% of students fail to seek help.
These facts scream one thing: we need more mental health resources for students when in college.
If on average half of students feel their mental health is poor and almost all feel overwhelmed, there needs to be systems in place for help. By having limited resources and therefore having to deny help, it creates a stigma around asking for it and also leaves students feeling helpless. If the facts don’t convince you, take it from me and a bunch of fellow struggling students: it seriously sucks.
While you’re waiting to see a campus counselor there are several ways to help ease your mind, including doing your favorite things or hanging around your favorite people. Unfortunately, temporary solutions may not be enough and when you need some extra help, resources need to be there no matter what issue, condition or illness may be affecting you mentally. It is not negotiable.
Colleges need to realize that people’s minds need to be kept healthy just as their bodies do.
If there is one thing you should know above all of this, it is that you are not alone and you are definitely not weak. You should also know that needing guidance or counseling is completely healthy and completely fine. That’s something I realized after my experience.
Acknowledging my feelings, validating them within myself and being aware of them made me feel strong. I was trying to take control and help myself. It was not my fault I got denied, it was the lack of resources set in place.
This issue might not be fixed today, tomorrow or next year, but the conversation needs to be started and spread. Mental health in college needs attention paid to it, desperately.
Colleges need to dedicate themselves to the resources and services to help the same way they do for the medical centers and health offices. It’s time for them to listen up, because without us and our well-being, they are nothing.
So, let’s get them to start listening.