Expert Contributors

  • Ross Aikins
    Ross Aikins

    Addiction

  • Scott Carroll
    Scott Carroll, MD

    Eating Disorders

  • Melissa Cohen
    Melissa Cohen, LCSW

    Stress & Anxiety

  • Dr. Kevin Doyle
    Dr. Kevin Doyle

    Addiction

  • Dr. Damon Raskin
    Dr. Damon Raskin

    Addiction

  • Steve Schlozman
    Steve Schlozman, MD

    Suicide & Depression

  • Michele Tedder
    A. Michele Tedder, MS Nursing

    Suicide & Depression

According to a study by Professional Risk Management Services, emotional health issues have become more common among new college freshmen. In 2014, the proportion of students who said they felt frequently depressed rose to 9.5%. These students reported missing class more often than their classmates and also expressed feelings of disengagement.

For students reporting emotional trouble, the transition to college life can be especially challenging. From newfound freedom to the rigors of college-level coursework, the pressure and stress of a postsecondary education can take its toll. The following guide can help college students identify, address, and get help for their mental health issues.

How to Find Mental Health Services

Students who feel sad or fearful, or experience difficulty coping with daily stress, may show symptoms that require professional attention. If symptoms arise, getting immediate help from experts is very important for the mental health of college students. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can help students find physicians, treatment programs, and other necessary services.

How to Assess Your Mental Health

Free mental health tests — while not diagnostic tools — can help determine your level of depression and whether you should seek professional help.

  • Psychology Today: Psychology Today offers a free, 20-minute mental health assessment. Questions cover anxiety, physical symptoms (e.g., racing heart and sweating), and frequency of attacks. At the conclusion of the test, individuals receive a recommendation as to whether or not they should seek help from a mental health professional.
  • HealthyPlace: This site offers a number of free tests useful for mental health awareness. After a short questionnaire, individuals receive scores that help determine whether seeking out professional help would be useful. Tests -- which can be completed in a few minutes -- cover topics like abuse, depression, sleep disorders, and anxiety.
  • Mental Health America: MHA offers many tests to help determine the need for mental health services. The site offers disorder definitions and tests for anxiety, addiction, and eating disorders. After taking a mental health test, individuals receive information that they can share with a healthcare provider.

Mental Health Issues Affecting College Students

Suicide & Depression

Professionals approach issues of depression and suicide in a holistic, thorough, and in-depth manner. The following information comprises a suicide and depression awareness guide for students.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers 24/7 support with a toll-free number, online chat, and a robust social media presence.

Contact Information

Phone: (800) 273-8255

Online Chat: Yes

Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

One in five college students has reported feeling stressed, which includes suicidal thoughts.

About one in five college students reported feeling so depressed over the last 12 months that they had difficulty functioning.

Please visit our guide to access suicide prevention resource tools, along with suicide warning signs and in-depth commentary from experts.

Stress and Anxiety

Because stress and anxiety can show up or become worse during an individual's college years, we’ve created a student guide to surviving stress and anxiety in college and beyond.

American Addiction Centers offers a free, 24/7 phone service for those feeling stressed or anxious. The organization helps individuals determine whether they should seek treatment.

Contact Information

Phone: (866) 237-4011

Online Chat: Yes

Email: Contact page

One in five college students received treatment for anxiety in the last 12 months, and these anxious feelings had a direct impact on schoolwork.

Nearly one in four college students reported taking psychotropic medications to treat mental health conditions.

Please explore the following comprehensive guide to find out more about stress and anxiety in college. You can also learn about resources and tools available to help manage and treat stress and anxiety.

College Addiction

Alcohol and drug abuse at college has become a significant public health problem resulting in injuries, assaults, sexual abuse, and death. In addition, drinking and drug use often coincide with academic issues, unsafe sex, and drunk driving.

The National Drug Helpline brings increased mental health awareness to the issues of drug and alcohol addiction. The helpline offers a 24/7 toll-free hotline.

Contact Information

Phone: (888) 633-3239

Email: resources@drughelpline.org

More than one in five college students took part in binge drinking over the last month, consuming about four drinks on days they drank alcohol.

Six percent of the country's nine million college students used illicit drugs for the first time in the past year.

 

For in-depth information on a variety of college addiction issues, including prescription medication abuse, please read our guidebook to addiction on college campuses.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders affect both women and men; these are often triggered by major life transitions, including going away to college. College students are particularly susceptible for a variety of reasons. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) reports that full-blown eating disorders typically begin between 18 and 21 years of age -- the time many of those affected attend college.

NEDA provides a free hotline, and its website offers a screening tool to help determine whether an individual should seek professional help.

Contact Information

Phone: (800) 931-2237

Text: NEDA to 741741

Online Chat: Yes

Email: info@nationaleatingdisorders.org

Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

A 2011 study showed that the prevalence of eating disorders increased from 23-32% for women and from 8-25% for men at one college over a 13-year period.

Twenty percent of college students believe they have suffered from an eating disorder at some point.

To learn about the different types of eating disorders, warning signs, and where to get help, please read our student eating disorders awareness guide.

Self-Injury

Self-injury occurs when an individual deliberately harms their body without the intent to die from suicide. It is a way for those who engage in this behavior to try and deal with overwhelming emotions. Mental health providers agree that incidents of self-injury have increased over the past several years, possibly due to a lack of coping mechanisms and the stressful situations young people face.

The Crisis Text Line, staffed by volunteers, uses text messaging to reach those who need self-injury help.

Contact Information

Text: HOME to 741741

Social Media Accounts: Facebook

About 17% of college students have attempted self-injury, with most trying more than once.

One in three of these students said no one knew about their self-harm history, indicating they tried to hide it.

If you’re not sure where to turn, call the S.A.F.E. Alternatives information line in the U.S. at (800) DONT-CUT for referrals and support for cutting and self-harm.

Bipolar Disorder

Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is an affective disorder involving unusual shifts in mood, energy, and behavior. It is common to have dramatic fluctuations between a normal mood and depression or elation. Bipolar disorder makes it difficult for college students to perform academically and can affect personal relationships.

There are two types of bipolar disorder:

Bipolar I

Repeated episodes of depression and mania -- a severely elevated mood state that causes disruption to an individual’s ability to function.

Bipolar II

Recurrent depressive episodes with at least one episode of hypomania, which is similar to but less severe than a manic episode.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers an overview of bipolar disorders and a toll-free helpline.

Contact Information

Phone: (800) 950-6264

Text: NAMI to 741741

Email: info@nami.org

Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

About 3.2% of college students meet the criteria for bipolar disorder, which is characterized by extreme mood swings.

College students with a bipolar disorder are 70% more likely to dropout of school than their peers.

Psychotic Disorders/Schizophrenia

Many mental illnesses include psychotic disorders in addition to schizophrenia, such as schizoaffective disorder, brief psychotic disorder, and delusional disorder.

The exact cause of psychotic disorders remains unknown. Some experts believe they are caused when nerve cell receptors in the brain do not work properly when interacting with a brain chemical called glutamate; this can lead to abnormal thinking and perception.

Researchers have also discovered several factors that may play a role. Many psychotic disorders run in families, which suggests a genetic tendency. Environmental factors can also affect mental illness, including major life changes like going away to college, stress, and drug abuse.

Contact Information

Phone: (800) 273-8255

Email: info@sardaa.org

Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

Three out of every 1,000 college students have been diagnosed with chronic psychotic disorder schizophrenia.

College students with schizophrenia drop out of school at nearly twice the rate as those without the disorder.

ADHD

The transition from high school to college brings extra challenges for all students, especially for those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Distractions, academic expectations, and a new independence are more difficult to manage when learners have ADHD, which involves an inability to focus or control behavior outside of the normal range for a person’s age and development.

Although researchers don’t know what causes ADHD, there appear to be genetic links. Prenatal issues, including smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy, and prematurity may also contribute to ADHD.

While not considered a learning disability, ADHD can still interfere with learning and behavior. However, some people with ADHD may also have a learning disorder.

Many organizations offer information, support, and advocacy services to those battling ADHD.

Contact Information

Phone: (301) 306-7070

Email: customer_service@chadd.org

Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

About one in four college students with disabilities hold an ADHD diagnosis.

As many as 8% of all college students have an ADHD diagnosis.

Sleep Issues

Sleep restores energy, fights physical and emotional illnesses, and strengthens memory. It is also necessary for normal motor and cognitive function. Unfortunately, college students often sleep less often than they need to. Lack of sleep can affect a student's health, mood, and safety.

The average adult needs 6-10 hours of sleep each night, although that amount varies depending on the individual. If you find yourself sleeping an extra two hours per night on weekends, it may mean that you need to get more sleep during the week.

Contact Information

Phone: (702) 243-1697

Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

As many as six in 10 college students suffer from poor quality of sleep.

Nearly 8% of college students fit the criteria for an insomnia disorder.

Pursuing a Degree in Mental Health

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs related to substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling will grow by 23% between 2016 and 2026 -- a pace much faster than the national average. The BLS also notes these positions generally require at least a bachelor's degree, although mental health counselors often require a master's degree and a state-specific license. Students interested in joining the mental health field may obtain financial aid and scholarships from many different sources. Schools offer flexible programs that may include on-campus, online, and hybrid options.

The best schools for counseling hold recognition from one of the country's seven regional accreditation organizations. Available resource guides can help students understand on-campus resources and internships. These resources may also provide links to career and professional services organization.

Many graduate programs require participants to complete internships with a set number of field hours. Students may also be asked to complete a capstone project. Empathetic students with excellent listening skills who can adapt to stressful situations can find success in this field.