OPINION: Mental health changing with the generations

(Illustration by Savannah Thaemert | The Collegian)

Mental health concerns are plaguing today’s college students.

Between the rising costs of a college education and the high levels of stress students face on a regular basis, the effects stress has on our bodies has become a normal state of living, and this is a problem.

As students enter college, they face the shock of a completely different atmosphere, schedule and freedom.

“The American Freshman annual survey from 2012 found that 30 percent of college freshmen report feeling frequently overwhelmed, with the number of women reporting this to be at its highest point, 40.5 percent, since the ques­tion was first asked in 1985, at which time the levels were less than half the current numbers,” Gregg Henriques said in the Psychology Today article “The college student mental health crisis.”

Henriques, who said college students today are suffering from a mental illness epidemic, also drew connections between increased rates of anxiety, depression and different generations of students.

Look at the difference between our parents’ generation and us. I remember feeling so much pressure to apply for scholarships and trying to juggle those deadlines with my high school course load and activities. Our parents did not have to deal with that.

My mom’s voice still echoes in my head, “When I was going to college, we didn’t have all these scholarships like you do.”

As I look back today, I wonder if my mom and dad were as stressed or overwhelmed as I was, not just applying for scholarships but building a resume full of leadership positions and activities. Not to mention the good grades necessary to be eligible for the scholarships I was applying for.

“Consider that one study found that the average high school student in the year 2000 has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient did in the 1950s,” Henriques said. “And those rates have only increased in the last decade.”

The fact that they are looking at high school students in that study is baffling because college is significantly more stressful than high school.

The percent of students seeking counseling services for harassment or sexual assault, drug and alcohol use or preexisting mental health disorders has stayed constant; however, students have been reporting self-injuries, suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts at a steady increase, Tyler Kingkade said in the HuffPost College article “The Number Of College Students Seeking Mental Health Treatment Is Growing Rapidly.”

Knowing there is a mental health epidemic among college students makes it even more pertinent for students and family members alike to build an understanding of the mental illness plaguing their loved ones.

The American Psychological Association looks at how mental illness can affect family and friends of those inflicted in the article “How to cope when a loved one has a serious mental illness.”

It’s easy to feel hurt and embarrassed by a friend or family member who is struggling with mental illness. You want them to just get over it and move on.

The APA suggests remaining positive and keeping an accepting attitude while remembering that a bystander’s attitudes and behaviors can make an important contribution in the recovery of someone who has a mental illness.

The takeaway from that is to be accepting of the illness but to continue to maintain the same outlook you had before the illness surfaced.

Mental illness is scary. We know it is in front of us, yet we find it easier to throw a blind eye at; however, gaining an understanding of how to cope with it and knowing what is triggering it helps.