Being Mindful of Mental Health in College

click to enlarge Being Mindful of Mental Health in College

College comes with a lot of firsts. For many, it’s the first time they’ve lived without their parents or family. For others, it may be the first time they’ve filed for loans and begin racking up college debt. On top of the typical monetary and acclimation stresses, students are also given an inordinate amount of homework and coursework. All of these stresses, along with many more, can be mentally taxing. Nearly one in every 10 college students will get mental health counseling on campus, according to USA Today records in 2014. Although not spoken about as openly as how much fun students will have once they get to college, mental illness is a very real issue facing college students. 

But there are several resources for students on and off campus to help with mental health. San Antonio colleges are equipped to offer counseling or additional off-campus resources to students who are struggling with their mental health. The University of Texas at San Antonio has several options and methods for students. One method for getting started is a “phone triage.” Many schools offer roughly 15-minute phone calls with a counselor so that the therapist can determine what is the next best step for students. This is an easy and comfortable way for students to reach out to counselors to receive care. Many students have never been to counseling before, so getting started can be intimidating. These private, brief talks are a great starting resource for students who aren’t ready for the face-to-face discussions with therapists. Like other colleges in town, UTSA offers several different types of counseling programs for students. Students can choose from individual counseling, group counseling and relationship counseling. The school is also working on launching a wilderness therapy program for students. If meeting with a counselor seems intimidating for students, schools often have student-led organizations that meet to discuss mental health. For a more relaxed environment, students may feel more comfortable talking about mental health with students their own age.

Most schools have a limit to how many times students can use counseling on campus per semester. This can be an issue for students who benefit from the free care that campuses offer. For other options besides counseling within schools, students can turn to online resources and apps. Your college will have mental health resources and videos on their websites. In addition, there are many affordable resources, support groups and call centers that students can find online. Many online centers offer confidential chatting or forums such as the GLBT National Help Center for LGBTQ people who are looking for mental health resources, IMAlive for people in crisis situations, and OK2Talk for young adults struggling with mental illness.

There are also several phone apps that can help prevent the onset of mental illness or aid with some of the effects of anxiety and depression. Some student favorites include Depression CBT Self-Help Guide which serves as a coaching module to help people with coping with depression, Mindshift which gives practical management tools and SAM which helps with monitoring anxious thoughts and provides a platform for people to share their progress confidentially.

Although online resources and apps are a great place for students to turn to if they’re uncomfortable with going to counseling services in schools or cannot afford professional out-of-school therapy, students should use these resources for more mild mental health issues. If students are facing more severe mental health issues, it would be best for them to know the number of the 24/7 hotline for their school’s counseling and crisis resources. Students can find this number online. Teachers and counselors will also send the information around during times of high stress, like during final times. In addition, students can text the number 741741 for free if they are having suicidal thoughts but don’t feel comfortable speaking on the phone to school officials.

Mental illness is a normal part of college for many students. It’s an issue that affects more people then you’ll realize. My university holds first year interest groups, a group of students that meet once a week to talk about the changes they’re experiencing in college. I remember being amazed about the fact that nearly every person in my group was going through some sort of stress or anxiety as they acclimated to college life. It affected all types of people in my interest group, even those that seemed perfectly happy with their college lifestyle. It’s a normal facet of growing up and away from your family, taking on debt and being overloaded with work. Although most people don’t talk openly about the mental health issues they’re facing when they start college, this shouldn’t be misunderstood as it’s not happening to your peers or that you’re alone in these worries.

If you begin struggling with a mental illness in college, reach out to school counselors, friends or online resources because you deserve the healthy, fun, educational and exciting college life that everyone hopes for.

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