A college student's guide to mental health
Making the transition to college isn’t easy for anyone. Classes are more difficult, time management is more critical to success and living with a new roommate can be challenging. Plus, uncertainty due COVID-19 is causing additional stress for students returning to campuses nationwide.
MAKE IT OK: Learn more about mental illness and how to be supportive
All these factors can impact your mental health. In fact, 1 in 5 youth and young adults lives with a mental health condition. Before you step foot on campus, know where to find support and be prepared to prioritize your mental health.
Here are some tips to help college students manage their mental health while on campus:
- Find a routine that works for you that includes a healthy diet, exercise and regular sleep patterns.
- Stay close to your support network. Engage family, friends, teammates, your faith community and other campus organizations.
- Be realistic and mindful of your needs and know your limits. Stay away from drugs and alcohol.
- Familiarize yourself with the mental health services provided on your campus and know how to access them.
Here are some messages of advice from Iowa college students who live with a mental illness:
"I am going to tell you some things I wish I knew sooner: It is OK, your emotions are valid and you are not alone. College is hard. Going through college while dealing with mental illness? Well, it can feel impossible and isolating. 8 a.m. classes are difficult enough without struggling to even get out of bed. Mental illness is something a lot individuals experience yet few will talk about. Even in an academic setting, the stigma around the topic is felt. Whether it is an off-handed comment or the lack of general education on the topic, mental illness seems like a taboo topic and something not to be openly discussed. Talk with others about what you're feeling, reach out to those around you (no one knows the signs better than someone struggling, too), and be an ally for yourself and others. Learn about the resources available to you, reach out to friends and family, and communicate with professors on bad days. You are your own priority and your mental health comes first every time. It’s OK and you are not alone."
— Essa, age 21
"Growing up, there was a lot of stigma against having mental illnesses. Those with them were seen as weak or cowards depending on what it was they faced. The same thought process stuck with me for a while, making high school difficult when I started struggling with suicidal ideation and self-harm. It wasn't until college that I realized that having these thoughts didn't single me out or make me weak, but rather, made me human. I still struggle a lot with suicidal ideation sometimes, especially when I can't keep to a routine, which is something that went away due to COVID-19. It took months to finally get into a new routine and it will take more energy to get into a routine with all of the precautions being taken into account by my college for the next semester. I've found that having a constant routine has allowed me to keep my mental illness in check and it is something I will always strive to have in my life. It is OK and you are not alone.”
— Anonymous, age 20
Here are some more tips from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to manage your mental health when you return to campus:
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