Mental Health and Wellness of College Students – Recognize the signs and know when to seek help

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ISO Customer Care | Jun 29, 2021 Health

Through ISO, you have coverage for mental health just like any other injury or sickness.

The College Health and Wellness Climate

The process of transitioning to college is a difficult journey. You are thrown into a new world of independence, learning how to balance the liberties it brings as well as the responsibilities. Every student will learn and grow at their own rate. Some people flourish in their first week at college, while for others it may take a year or two before they fully feel comfortable. This transition period is bound to have its up and downs, which can lead to stress and exhaustion. The Healthy Minds Study found that around the midpoint of a semester, 75% of college students agree, to some extent, that they need help for an emotional or mental health problem.

This adjustment period is especially tough for international students as they are also learning to acclimate themselves to a new country and culture in addition to the new community at their chosen school. There is a learning curve with practically everything – from travel, to food, to casual conversation. While the transition to studying in the United States is exciting, the challenges can be consuming.

What’s important to remember is that no college student is alone. Even if you have traveled halfway around the world and are still becoming comfortable with English, there is a community for you and a whole staff at your college there to help you. This is ISO’s guide to understanding the mental health climate amongst college students, as well as resources available for you.

Immediate Support

Your school’s mental health clinic is one of the first resources to utilize. You can visit your counseling center or check your school website for more information.

Many on-campus counselor centers offer individual or group counseling, wellness, and stress management workshops, or can assist you with referrals to long-term services. These onsite services are typically provided at a low cost or no cost to you as a student. There are also many other accessible resources at your hands. Read our guide here for a more detailed list of resources.

For immediate help, contact the crisis hotlines below:

Crisis Text Line – texting “Hello” to 741741 will connect you to a crisis counselor who provides 24/7 support and information for anyone

Disaster Distress Helpline – a call or text to 1(800)-985-5990 will provide you free, multilingual help for anyone experiencing emotional distress

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – available via phone call or through web chat, connects people to nearby crisis centers and provides counseling or mental health referrals

If you are in a life-threatening situation, seek medical attention immediately. For other additional resources nationwide, including information on finding a health care provider or treatment, click here.

The Symptoms

Psychology instructor at Harvard Medical School, Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, notes how “the college years, developmentally, happen to coincide with the peak period of onset of all psychiatric illnesses. College presents… sort of a perfect storm.” In teenagers and young adults, stress can cause headaches, neck strain, depression and anxiety. There can be trouble sleeping or maintaining a healthy appetite.

When a student is feeling depressed or anxious, it is extremely common for their overall function to be affected. Whether it is shown through social interactions or an individual’s academic performance, mental health issues can diminish the success of a student.

According to The Healthy Minds study, 1-in-5 students have had emotional or mental difficulties negatively affect academic performance for at least 6 days in approximately a month-long span. We at ISO want to make sure you are comfortable and knowledgeable about how and where to access support during such times.

Know The Signs

If you are concerned about a peer or a friend at school, it is important to know a few of the signs of potential mental health illnesses. The best thing to do is simply open the conversation. When talking to them, it is better to ask questions that require an open-ended answer, rather than just a single word response. Ask things like “What was your favorite thing that happened today?” or “What are you looking forward to this week?” A basic sign that should cause some worry is if your friend cannot think of something that they are excited about to come. If you think a peer or a friend is in need, connect them with a counselor and support them along the way.

Mental Health Concerns in Figures

The Healthy Minds study also offers that 67% of college student respondents were screened positively for moderate to major depression or anxiety. This figure, compared to the study’s recorded 30% who have received counseling, leaves many students struggling and without clinical support. While professionals speculate if any statistic accurately represents the presence of mental health difficulties, it is important to note that between the years of 2010 and 2017, demand at health centers for counseling steadily increased.

Among the demand for counseling, the two main concerns were depression and anxiety. This clearly creates the need for college aged kids to have a high functioning service of counseling. For most students, especially those in their first year, on campus services are the most accessible and often are the first resource students turn to.

When looking at the statistics of students from specific countries, the figures vary. It was recorded in 2018 that 27% of Mexican students reported mental disorders, as compared to about 40% amongst Spanish students. No matter what the exact figures may be, it is clear to medical professionals across the country the need for mental health services is higher now than ever. The growing demand proves to be a challenge to manage for colleges and universities in the United States. While enrollment to schools have flatlined, the demand for students to attend mental health clinics has nearly doubled just in the past five years.

The Incredible Struggle

When questioned about the growing demand of mental health services in late 2019, Jamie Davidson, the Associate Vice President of Student Wellness at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas described the ongoing situation as “an incredible struggle.” The counselors and staff of this school are extremely overworked and stressed themselves, as the team only comprises of 11 licensed counselors, attempting to help 30,000 students. This environment has made it common for students to visit their on-campus mental health clinic and get turned away due to a long wait list, which in some cases can last months. This has left students feeling helpless with nowhere else to turn. However, there are many other resources you can utilize. Find help for your mental health here. To improve/treat your mental health, read here.

Immediate Access

With today’s college students connected closely with technology, finding help for mental illnesses has become even more accessible. All ISO members have coverage for mental health the same as any other illness or injury If your school’s clinic cannot give you an answer other than a long waiting list, you can find other resources here.

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About ISO Student Health Insurance

Founded in 1958, ISO prides itself on being the leader in providing international students with affordable insurance plans. Administered by former and current international students, we are able to assist our member with multilingual customer service in Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and more. ISO serves over 3,200 schools/colleges and more than 150,000 insured students every year.

For more information, please visit www.isoa.org and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn.

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