Mental Health Guide for College Students

College is supposed to be the best years of your life, right? You will meet lifelong friends, maybe your spouse, and prepare yourself for a fascinating career. You start off the semester with a fresh mind and a hopeful eye.

However, this may quickly turn into a stressful time full of burdens. College can be difficult, to say the least. You are no longer at home with the support of your family, you’re taking out student loans and financially trying to get by, and the homework is much more overwhelming than high school. For some students, it can become more than a challenge; the experience may evolve into a mental health issue.

Do you think you or someone you know has a mental health issue? Here are the top five most common issues for college students :

  • Depression — this can be characterized by feelings of sadness or unhappiness, change in appetite or weight, slowed thinking, loss of interest in activities, fatigue, feelings of guilt or anger, indecisiveness, thoughts of dying. Everyone may feel a little sad or frustrated at times, but if it is an ongoing feeling that you just cannot shake and you feel different than you used to, you may be depressed.According to the American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment (ACHA–NCHA), about 30% of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” at some time in the past year.


  • Anxiety — when it comes to anxiety, everyone feels stressed at times. However, if your thoughts and feelings begin to overcome your daily functions, you may be suffering from a mental health issue. There are several types of anxiety including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder (SAD). The symptoms of each anxiety disorder can be mistaken for a physical ailment, and they may manifest differently in each person. Some primary symptoms include irritability, trouble concentrating, fearfulness, sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, muscle tension, headaches, and upset stomach.According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 80% of college students say they frequently or sometimes experience daily stress.


  • Eating Disorders — there are three main types of eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder (BED). Eating disorders affect both men and women of all ages. During college, students may gain more weight due to poor eating habits, freedom to choose meals, and other factors. The main symptoms of eating disorders include having a poor body image, excessive exercise, dehydration, fear of eating in public, making excuses for eating habits, or feeling like eating is out of control.According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), 91% of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting. More so, 25% of college-aged women engage in purging as a weight-management technique.


  • Addiction — it is common for college students to drink, smoke, and experiment with drugs. Many college students drink socially and often times attend parties where drugs and alcohol are present. Although drinking alcohol is not harmful, some students will abuse how much they drink and it will become a dangerous problem. College students might also become addicted to certain drugs. Symptoms of a drug addiction may include slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, weight loss or gain, and other physical differences while under the influence. Other times, symptoms may be a sudden need for money, fearful or paranoid for no reason, suspicious behavior, and a sudden change in friends or hobbies.According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about four out of five college students drink and about half of these students participate in binge drinking. Each year, over 1,800 students die from alcohol-related injuries. The chances of assault, sexual abuse, injury, academic problems, and other health problems including suicide are greater because of alcohol or drug abuse.


  • Suicide — this is defined as the act of purposely taking one’s own life. To help save the life of yourself or someone you know, make sure to be aware of the signs of someone who may want to end their life. People usually feel a sense of hopelessness, a negative change in mood, abrupt change in behavior, extreme physical or emotional pain, a drop in academic performance, and avoiding friends.According to Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support, a non-profit organization, suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students. The primary reason for suicide is untreated depression.


If you feel one of your friends or yourself is slipping into one of these mental health categories, you should seek help immediately! Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed to get the attention you need, as many of these issues are very common mental health conditions of college students. People deal with these issues on a daily basis; you are not alone. Despite the fact that mental health issues are so prevalent among college students, only 13% have been diagnosed.

If you are unsure of what to do whether you or a friend are having problems with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, or suicide, you can start by following one these steps :

  • Call your doctor or mental health provider
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889) to talk to a trained counselor
  • Call your campus suicide or crisis line
  • Visit your college counseling center or student health services
  • Make sure you are not left alone
  • If someone else is in crisis, make sure he or she is not left alone

There is hope for change, for a better tomorrow, and a healthy way of living. Do not give up. You can overcome your mental health conditions with professional help.