Music & Mental Health Among College Students

Music & Mental Health Among College Students

A look into how music is helping college students with their mental health issues while studying at the University of South Florida.


In a bedroom off campus, University of South Florida sophomore Will Laurie scrolled through Instagram when suddenly, something in him didn't feel right. He got up and started pacing the room, his body shaking. He was scared. Walking back and forth as his breath became sporadic, he searched his mind for something that would soothe this frantic feeling. Laurie was having a panic attack.

Laurie had been experiencing small episodes of anxiety and panic attacks during the previous eight months, starting in April 2017 during the spring semester of his Freshman year. In the same month Come Out of The Dark, USF's student lead mental health organization, held its first annual "Out of the Darkness Walk" which Laurie attended. That was his first interaction with the group before becoming a regular attendee a year later in Spring 2018, and then the treasurer in Fall 2018.
Come Out of the Dark was born in 2014 from a grassroots campaign to create positive conversation about depression but eventually refocused on mental health as a whole to raise awareness and encourage science-based dialogue to end the stigma surrounding mental health.

With 40 million U.S. adults suffering from an anxiety disorder, 75 percent of them experience their first episode of anxiety by the age of 22. Lack of money, loneliness, changing schools, stress, and social, cultural or academic expectations are all experiences that college students are exposed to. These are also environmental factors that can contribute to mental health problems.

While anxiety and depression rank as the most common, other types of mental health issues students might experience are eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, struggles with identity, self-harm, bipolar disorder, addiction, and suicide. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reported that 80 per cent of students feel stress on a daily basis, and while some stress during college is expected, continuous stress can lead to more serious and harmful issues. While the conversation around mental health is growing, so is the number of college students experiencing mental health problems.

According to a study by the Penn State University Centre for Collegiate Mental Health, the number of students seeking mental health support jumped 50 per cent between 2015 and 2016. Therapy is one of the best actions one can take to manage their mental health, but with many Florida universities having around 2,000 students to one counselor, students may not be able to access it as much as they would like. Therefore students are finding other ways to manage and cope.

Activities like yoga and meditation have become more common on campus, as well as meeting groups like USF's Come Out of the Dark, Active Minds, and QTPOC & Coffee. Laurie's love for music motivated him to recently host a Come Out of the Dark meeting discussing mental health's influence on hip-hop and its artists, and vice versa.

"Hearing Kid Cudi and Kanye West talk about their personal struggles on KIDS SEE GHOSTS helped me realize that I could easily talk about music and mental health," said Laurie.

For someone that struggled with major self-esteem issues growing up, Laurie found confidence and assurance in Kanye West's music and overt ego. "I didn't start listening to hip-hop until my sophomore year of high school. However, it had an instant effect on my psyche," said Laurie.

After Laurie's big panic attack, he feel into a month long depression. He often felt numb and would listen to music to pass the time. One of Kanye West's darker albums, 808's & Heartbreak, explores themes of heartache, loss, conflict, pain, and guilt. Listening to something so raw and honest helped Laurie acknowledging his own feelings and helped him feel less lonely in his struggle.

"I'm not sure if it's just the music that helps but it's also the time, listening through the whole album and relating to those feelings, then moving on to other music, eventually I wouldn't feel as bad," said Laurie.

Root Christophersen, another USF student who has previously studied audio production, used to work with children with disabilities and used music to calm them and help them become motivated to do tasks they found difficult.

"Using music they enjoy or even introducing them to new sounds can help them to expand their thinking and cognitive functions, going 'outside the box' of their current mental state without having to move physically," said Christophersen.

With a strong passion for music, Christophersen also uses it for his own self-therapy. "Relating to and communing with artists that speak truth about real-world occurrences/events helps me to remember and realize deeper that I am not the only one who goes through experiences, that we are all connected in many ways, and more alike than different."

Experiencing a new schooling environment can be a challenge for anyone, but for British exchange student, Dani Cowell, that change also comes with unusual cultures, social rules, different weather, a change from UK to U.S. English, and new academic expectations. She has spent the last two months meeting new people and adjusting to American culture and life as a USF Bull.
"I've been pretty homesick, which is normal but it's hard to manage without the support system of friends and family that I'm used to having," said Cowell.

The English Major has suffered from depression on-and-off for the last few years and has been using drawing and music as coping mechanisms since arriving. "It helps me to focus and concentrate on what I'm feeling," said Cowell. "I love listening to songs by Young The Giant, Hippo Campus and Lorde, they make me feel better."

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65 Truths College Students Need to Hear Right Now

Truth every college student needs to hear.

1. The best memories are ones you actually can remember.

2. God isn’t going to ask you if you were in a top-tier sorority or fraternity at the gates.

3. You failed a test, not your life.

4. Numbers don’t define you.

5. That includes the number you see that is your grade.

6. Also, how much you weigh.

7. As well as if you are a “7/10” on a so-called “hot scale.”

8. Or if you can bench press 200 lbs. (@ all the guys at the gym, please chill.)

SEE ALSO: 7 Reminders Every College Student Needs To Hear Before The Semester Ends

9. Innocence is nothing to be ashamed of.

10. Neither are mistakes.

11. But learn from your mistakes. Mistakes can be lessons, which can be the biggest blessing.

12. Your metabolism isn’t what it used to be and that is okay.

13. You may not always understand what God is doing, but I promise He has a plan.

14. Every person you meet is battling their own struggles.

15. Life isn’t always great moments.

16. But you have to walk through the forest to get to the mountain top.

17. Your heart isn’t damaged. It is temporarily broken but it will be fixed.

18. However, the only one who can fix a broken heart is the one who created it.

19. So a cute boy or hot girl can’t put the pieces back together.

20. Neither can ice cream.

21. But ice cream can totally help.

22. Stop texting your ex. He/She is your ex for a reason.

23. Loving Jesus means loving people.

24. Loving Jesus also means loving the image of Him in the mirror you see.

25. Stop hiding your emotions. Stop crying in the bathroom or behind a locked door. You have people in your life who care about you.

26. Suicide is never the answer.

27. Breathe in, breathe out.

28. Do you feel your heart pump? Do you feel the air exiting your body? That is a sign you are here for a purpose. Your life is no mistake.

29. Just because you doubt, doesn’t mean you don’t believe in Jesus.

30. However, when walking on the water scares you, look to Jesus and keep your eyes on Him.

31. If you have the opportunity to go to school go. There are young girls around the world who would do anything to sit at the desk you are complaining about.

32. Don’t pick a career based on money.

33. However, I promise you can use any passion or gift to serve a purpose bigger than yourself if you allow yourself to give it to the One who gave it to you.

34. You don’t need pretty prayers to please God.

35. Talk to Him like you are talking to a friend.

36. Look for the good in everyone.

37. That includes the mean girl who no one likes. Chances are she is mean for a reason. Someone was once mean to her. Kill her with kindness.

38. Pray to have the Lord’s eyes. See people with love.

39. Try to have the Lord’s hands, always be reaching out to others.

40. Each morning, pray to have the Lord’s feet and go where He calls you.

41. It is a bad day, not a bad life.

SEE ALSO: What It's Like To Be A College Student In April

42. You don’t need a six-pack to find a man who loves you.

43. You need a spouse who will be able to look at you when you are 80, and wrinkly and maybe a little chunky, and you need him to love you then. If he loves you for your body and your hair, I promise he doesn’t actually love you. Looks fade, but love is eternal. Find someone who loves you like Jesus.

44. Do some squats.

45. But squat so you feel good about yourself, not to attract the opposite sex.

46. You are never too old to find a new hobby.

47. You were beautiful before someone told you.

48. If you don’t know if you are in relationship or not, leave. You deserve clarity, not insecurity.

49. You deserve friendships that are mutual.

50. The best Friday nights are spent with a puppy and food. It is okay to not always be social.

51. Stop worrying about whether your crush will text you back.

52. Stop over analyzing everything in general.

53. Pray for your future spouse.

54. However, also pray for your future bridesmaids/groomsmen. Some of the most influential people you may have in your life you may not have even met yet.

55. Storms bring strength.

56. And storms bring rainbows if you are patient and observant.

57. Stop Pinteresting your dream life and start living it.

58. The Bible is actually extremely relatable. Open it up. Read it.

59. Romans 8:28 “and we know God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” God is on your team. He wants you to have moments of celebration. He has a purpose for you greater than your bad day.

60. Never forget what Jesus did for you on that cross. When he died for you, it was painful and brutal. It was ugly. It was love. Don’t let that truth ever become numb to you no matter how many times you have heard the story.

61. There is nothing wrong with carbs.

62. Study. And don’t wait for the night before.

63. Find someone who you can look up to.

64. Also, never forget that there is always someone looking up to you. Act like someone you would want your future children to be. Act in a way that reflects wisdom.

65. Smile more, you are loved by the one who hung the stars and painted the sea. He created puppies and carbs–yet still loves you more. That is something to celebrate.

College is tough and life is hard. You are going to have moments where all you want to do is celebrate life with your best friends, but you will also have moments where you just want to lock the door, ignore everyone, and have a good cry. Never forget that your worth comes from something greater than your Biology grade, and from Someone greater that the one who broke your heart.

You aren’t too cool for Christ in college. Christ is a necessity for you in your life. He can hold your hand during your heartbreaks and failures and celebrate with you when you get the text back or a passing grade in foreign language. He loves for you and cares for you more than your sorority or fraternity ever will.

So buy your books, do your homework, but never forget when you are walking to you 8:00 a.m. you regretfully signed up for, to look up. Look at the clouds and the sky and thank your creator that in a big big world with many beautiful things, He still loves our messy hearts even more. So this one is for the boys for the King. This life is for the One who laid down His life.

I promise college is more fun when you dance with your Savior. Follow His lead and let him take you on a journey where you can find your purpose. You may not know where you are going, but you do know who you are following.

So never forget that although classes may be hard, and your metabolism may be slowing down–God is still good. He turns our ashes into beauty and our trials into our testimony. Do life with your creator and I promise you that you will have more than you need.

Romans 8:28 “And we know God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Check out my website for more articles on self-worth <3

Twitter: gracev96

Instagram: lemmebeyourvalentine

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'Breaking Up' With Those Toxic Friends Doesn't Make You A Bad Person

When you get stressed interacting with them, then you know something's up.


I would like to mention that yes, I have done it. It wasn't a toxic relationship but I was uncomfortable and I let them go. I am happier for it and trust me, you will be too.

It's not pretty being in a toxic friendship. It doesn't even have to be toxic. The moment you feel uncomfortable around them, the moment you are stressed to be near them, or you feel scared that they won't listen to your opinions, it's time to let go.

I'm not the kind of person that finds it difficult to let go of people. It is a cycle of life and sometimes, people go and sometimes, they stay. Relationships evolve and people evolve; hoping that things stay the same is a pointless endeavor.

But it is definitely hard to understand that you need to stop talking to someone or else it will make you sadder, more different, move you in a direction that you aren't comfortable with and that changes who you want yourself to be.

It is hard to accept that there is nothing to do now, there is no way to fix it, and you must just stop talking to each other.

You can try your best to explain to them what the issue is, try to resolve it, try to keep that friendship working but sometimes even after that, it simply doesn't work and you do not know where to go from that.

It's ok. It doesn't make you mean or cruel or bad. You are just taking care of yourself and you should. We all should take care of our own mental health before others because we have control over our mental health, not other people's.

Not being friends with someone that you were close to is so weird. You go on with your life and realize that you could fill your time with different things and sometimes, it seems preposterous that there was someone you spent so much of your time with because you don't have those big gaps that you expected to have.

College especially isn't the greatest with friendships. You come in thinking that you are going to find the ones that you will be friends with for the rest of your life and sometimes, you just lose touch and don't talk that much anymore but others that you didn't expect you would become closer to turn out to be the ones that you spend a significant time of your days with.

Friendships are hard and it is harder to even understand if a friendship is blossoming or not but with significant experience, you will realize that your time is precious and spending it with those who you actually care about will make you the happiest.

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