College students are having more trouble than ever dealing with the pressures of school, and it's becoming more dangerous for them.
The most common mental health diagnoses among college students are now anxiety and depression, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State. Between that, the added stresses of classwork and tuition, and the pressure to succeed in every aspect of life, many students are being overwhelmed by college, and it's starting to show nationwide.
It can be difficult to see that students are struggling. Many students will try to appear confident and happy even when they are the complete opposite. Penn students call this the Penn Face. Stanford students call it Duck Syndrome, a duck glides across the surface, but its legs are frantically paddling underneath. This can make it very hard to tell that a student needs help until it's too late. It can be hard for students to tell who is faking as well, despite the fact that they know that people are. Students don't want to be the only one struggling while everyone else seems to be fine, so they put on a face that says they're successful too.
College counselors have also noted that students expect perfection from themselves. This can come from their own expectations, or from pressure from peers or family. Speaking to the New York Times, Meeta Kumar, a counselor at Penn for 16 years, has noted that "What you and I would call disappointments in life, to them feel like big failures." Something like getting a B can cause a student to completely fall apart, and it can sometimes be hard for them to get everything back together. Students who did well easily in high school may have more trouble in college, as well. They may be unused to not being perfect, and can have trouble handling a relatively small mistake.
A 2008 Associated Press and mtvU survey of college students found that 80 percent said they frequently or sometimes experienced daily stress, 34 percent had felt depressed at some point in the last three months, 13 percent had been diagnosed with a mental health condition, and 9 percent had seriously considered suicide in the past year. The national suicide rate among people aged 15 to 24 years old has been increasing since 2007, from 9.6 deaths per 100,000 to 11.1 in 2013, the last year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have data available. For a student to commit suicide, they probably don't see any other way out. The feel like they've been put in a position where this is their only option, which is incredibly worrying.
College students today have a lot of pressure on them. There are expectations to be perfect in both academics and social situations. Students are often required to also work internships or jobs for experience. They compare themselves to their peers, who may be giving off the impression that they are completely in control of their workload as well. They also face pressure from family and have to deal with the student loans they may need to pay off in the future. For some students, it may feel like too much. With everything students deal with, it's not surprising that they're having trouble managing with it all.
For anyone who needs help or is concerned about someone else, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.