We’re closing in on the 4th week of college here at Oklahoma City and one thing has become extremely clear: you need to make mental health a priority. I know for me this is something very difficult. I want to be involved in as many things as possible that I forget that I’m important too. Classwork, clubs, and extracurriculars can seriously take a toll on someone so willing to give themselves to their work. So many college students seem to struggle with putting themselves first. I mean, you’re paying so much money to be here so why not take on everything you can? But the thing is, we can’t do everything. As human beings, we physically and mentally cannot handle that amount of stress. One of the fraternities on campus, Lambda Chi Alpha, had their philanthropy week about mental health entitled “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay”, which got me interested in researching college mental health studies. Just take a look at the statistics:
According to the mental health research by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
· One in four students have a diagnosable illness
· 40% do not seek help
· 80% feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities
· 50% have become so anxious that they struggled in school
And in the 2015 National College Health Assessment:
· Forty Million U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder and 75% of them experience an episode of anxiety by the age of 22 (before graduation)
· 41.6% of colleges stated anxiety as the top presenting concern among college students
· 85% of college students reported that they had felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do at some point within the past year
With statistics like these, how come so many people seem to put their mental health in the back seat? With mental illness, our brain's experience in a mental crisis is similar to if we had pneumonia or the flu, so shouldn’t we treat it as a serious issue? It is still an illness no matter if you have a fever or not. A big issue is that many people are misinformed about mental illness. It seems that people have made mental illness so “casual” or “common” that it has become something that seems unimportant to pay attention to. Well, I think it’s time we define some of these illnesses to get a better understanding of what mental illness is:
Depression, according to the dictionary, is a mental condition characterized by feelings of severe despondency and dejection, typically also with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep.
Here are some facts according to the National Network of Depression Centers:
· Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States in people age 15-44
· 80% of people treated for Depression see improvement in symptoms within 4-5 weeks, yet two-thirds of people with depression do not actively seek treatments
Anxiety, according to the dictionary, is a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 5 major types of anxiety:
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
3. Panic Disorder
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
5. Social Anxiety
An Eating Disorder, according to the dictionary, is any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits (such as anorexia nervosa).
There are many different types of Eating Disorders, but the main three you’ll hear about are:
1. Anorexia Nervosa
2. Bulimia Nervosa
3. Binge Eating Disorder
Mental Health is seriously no joke. And there are many ways to get treatment but you must seek it no matter how difficult it seems. No one wants to talk about their mental health, but as soon as you do, the process of healing becomes so much easier. If you have a friend who is suffering from some sort of mental illness and has not sought help, you can reach out to them or an advisor to keep them safe. You may save a life.
We, college students, have so much on our plate right now. We’re starting to get in-depth with our classes and the work is starting to skyrocket. Now is the time to take a deep breath and slow down. It may seem like you don’t have time to take care of yourself but it isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity. Do something good for yourself today. Make that appointment at the counseling center, talk to your mom, find a puppy and play with it, or maybe eat a donut. Whatever your process is and whatever your mind truly needs, now is the time to do it. Stay strong. You got this.