College isn’t easy. Talking about your mental health is also not easy. When you put the two together, it can feel like a dead end. As a college student myself, it was hard to make the choice to use my resources and get the help I needed for my mental health. I knew my college provided counseling, but my past made it difficult for me to take the step to accepting it.
I know I’m not the only person who didn’t have a completely modernized upbringing. I never felt shamed for needing counseling, but I also didn’t feel like it was the most accepted choice growing up. Everyone just “sucked it up.” The stigma around therapy is real, and having those past interactions makes it hard to open up later on.
Stress, depression and anxiety are too common in college students.
When you enter college, your whole world changes. Most times you are in a new city with new people. Personally, this transition led me to a lot of self-discoveries all at once. I knew I was changing for the better internally, but it was hard to put that change in action. I felt myself slipping. I was still doing great academically, but the personal side of myself felt off.
I’m not the only college student who has experienced this. According to NAMI:
- One in four people between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness.
- Over half of college students report overwhelming anxiety that makes academics more difficult.
- More than 80% of college students have felt overwhelmed by their responsibilities.
- More than 30% of college students have felt so depressed in the past year that it was hard to function.
- Almost 65% of people who stop attending college do so because of a mental health condition.
And lots of things can hold college students back from getting help. Stigma can be a big concern. And sometimes students just aren’t aware of the resources available to them.
Why I reached out for support—and you can, too.
The good news is that today’s college students and young adults are more likely to talk about mental health than the generations before them.
It was only when I was talking to someone I had just met that I realized there was hope. She told me that the counselor she had at our school had really helped her. It was that simple. For some reason, that’s when it clicked with me that I should use the services that had been available to me for months.
I realized that I was in a new chapter of my life. I could make my own decisions and work on myself without interference. So, I started seeing a counselor every other week for 6 months.
By doing this, I understood more about my relationships, my background, my anxiety, and my childhood trauma. The last one is something I never recognized until counseling. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, either. It just happened. I understand so much more about myself now, and I know how to treat myself. I’m a lot kinder to me than I used to be. I know my limits, and I know how to grow.
How does this connect to the college experience? College equates to freedom on so many levels. This time of your life is the beginning of so much. You are free to mold yourself into who you want to be. That’s why helping yourself in this era is one of the best things you can do.
Without counseling, a lot of my issues would still be at an unhealthy level. I let a lot of things slide for the benefit of what I thought would be comforting others. For any student who is thinking or has thought about reaching out: Be proud. It takes a lot of courage to just think about reaching out. Even if you don’t take a step today, understanding more about yourself and the resources around you still matters.
You are the only one who can change you. It can be hard to go against cultural and societal factors but once you break that barrier, you won’t ever look back.
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