Do you remember seeing those pamphlets during college day? The ones with all of the students, sitting on the lawn, laughing with each other. While that picture, made to catch someone's eye to entice them to learn more about going to the university, is a nice thought, it completely misses the real point: college is so overwhelming.
Yeah, college is hard. College is stressful. College can be too much to handle for some people. It is a sad reality that no one wants to talk about-- well, I do.
I want to talk about it because I am part of the significant percentage of college students in the United States that suffer from an anxiety disorder or depression. I am juggling so many things: work, school, family, all the while trying to figure out how to become a functioning adult and secure a future that will benefit me. And I juggle all those things because I have to and I want to, but no one told me about the toll it would have on my mental health.
I remember vividly the moment I realized that something was off about me. I was 18 years old, and I was starting classes at my local community college. I was an exceptional student all throughout grade school and high school, so I was not worried one single bit about the workload. And then it happened, the panic attacks became more frequent. I felt so disinterested and detached from everything I was learning, and I felt completely lost and hopeless. With a little encouragement from my parents, who somehow always had a feeling that I was suffering from bad anxiety, I sought out medical advice and treatment. And it was the best adult decision I've ever made in my life.
I was so convinced that I could just keep working hard, and the end result would just get rid of my anxiety. But you can't do that, you can't will it away. It will just eat away at you until you are so broken, you can't keep going. Anxiety and depression are so real, and so dangerous. They need to be taken seriously, because they lead to very sad and difficult life choices. They are real illnesses, despite what people would like to tell you.
The reason I am writing this is that if you're a college student, like me, and you too suffer from these feelings of panic, hopelessness, and detachment, you are not alone. It is a sad truth, but anxiety and depression are so incredibly pervasive on campuses today, medial professionals have taken great notice. In 2009, a survey conducted by the American College Health Association concluded that 46 percent of college students said they felt "things were hopeless" at least once in 12 months. Some have become so depressed, they struggled in their classes, couldn't function, dropped out of school, and worst of all, committed suicide. The rate of suicide among adults between the ages of 15-24 has tripled since 1950s. This means it is the seconds leading cause of death among college-aged adults.
Those are a lot of numbers, but they all say the same thing. They serve as a reminder to all to take into consideration how important maintaining your mental health, in addition do doing well, is important for survival in college. So, how do we do that?
For me, having the support of my friends and family lead to me seeking advice and treatment for my illness that ultimately made me a happier and healthier human being. I still struggle with bad anxiety, but I have effectively learn to manage it so it doesn't not take my life away from me. So, that being said. Talk about it. Express your feelings. If you are struggling, go to someone. Whether that someone be a parent, a sibling, a friend, a classmate, a counselor, a professor, whatever. Creating a positive and open dialogue about these things is so crucial.
College students, take this advice. That exam you are stressing about is seriously not worth the expense of your mental health. You will look back on all those things, and wish you didn't put so much pressure on yourself. Doing well in college is great, and I am not saying to not do that. Of course you should still set goals and study hard, just take into mind that you are completely obligated to take care of yourself as well. If the situation you are in makes you so unhappy to the point where you are struggling to get by day to day, it is by no means lazy or cowardly to get yourself out of said situation. College is hard, but whatever you are studying should make you excited and passionate, not anxious and miserable.
All in all, everyone's college experience is different, so I guess the best advice I can give is to put your health first, recognize when you are struggling, and do whatever you think is best for you.