Mental Health

"College is an exciting time for students. For many, it is a time of exploration and discovery, but all the change can be very stressful. Mental health is an important area of health, especially since nearly half of all college students have reported feeling so depressed that they had trouble functioning, and 15 percent meet the criteria for clinical depression*.
Untreated depression can lead to suicide, which is the second leading cause of death of college students. It is important for college-age students to seek care so they can lead a healthy, successful life."

American College Health Association.
American College Health Association -National College Health Assessment: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2006.
Baltimore, MD: American College Health Association; 2007.

Common Mental Health Concerns Among College Students

Adjustment Issues

College is very different from high school. No matter how well you did in high school, college will be challenging. For one thing, there are fewer assignments and tests. This means that every grade is important! This is also the first time that many students have ever been away from home for an extended period of time. This can be very challenging for students, especially those who are used to seeing and talking with their family and friends every day. This is also an exciting time in the lives of students when they begin to develop new friendships and find new direction for life. However, this can seem overwhelming for some people. The University offers many resources that can help to make your transition to college as smooth as possible.

There are a few tips that can help you adjust well and be successful in college.

  1. Talk to your family and friends regularly; but don’t forget to take time to get know some new friends and join some organizations at college. If things become too overwhelming, talk to someone about it. Your professors can be helpful as can the Counseling Center or Psychology Clinic.
  2. GO TO CLASS! This helps you to keep up with your course assignments and helps you to make sense of the course material. It also helps you to get to know your professors and your professors to get to know you.
  3. STUDY! High school did not require the same amount of study time that college will. Cramming does not work in college – plan on studying some everyday. This will help you to actually learn the material and reduce stress closer to test time. See also  How to Study Tips and UA's Center for Academic Success.
Depression
What is Depression?

Depression is very different from feeling blue occasionally, and may lead to a serious medical illness. It’s more than just feeling “down in the dumps” or “blue” for a few days. It’s feeling “down” and “low” and “hopeless” for weeks at a time.

About 18.8 million Americans experience depressive disorders that affect how they sleep, eat, feel about themselves, and live their lives. Depression can run in families, and it usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30. Depression has physical and emotional symptoms and cannot be wished away; people with depression can’t just “pull themselves together.” There are different types of depressive disorders, each with its own symptoms and treatment options. The good news is that depression can be treated, and people can recover.

Action Steps

  • Stay active. Regular physical activity improves one’s mood, helps relieve depression, and increases feelings of well-being. Try going for a walk, dancing, jogging, or riding a bike. Ask a friend to exercise with you if you need to be motivated.
  • Develop a circle of friends for support.
  • Identify what may be causing your stress. Determine what steps you can take to reduce stressors, such as changing schedules, using self-relaxation techniques, and setting realistic goals for yourself.
  • Talk to someone you can trust, such as a parent, doctor, counselor, religious leader, resident assistant, or teacher. Some people find that sharing their feelings with someone they trust and who recognizes what they’re going through helps them feel better.
  • Visit the health center, and discuss concerns with a health professional. If the health professional advises psychotherapy or medication, follow instructions. Watch out for side effects, and attend follow-up appointments to assess improvement. If you don’t feel any better after 4-6 weeks, tell your health professional.
  • If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Source: This content was taken from www.cdc.gov and www.nimh.nih.gov

Signs and Symptoms

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed
Contact the UA Counseling Center to talk with someone about your concerns, at (205) 348-3863.
Sleep Disorders

While we often consider sleep to be a “passive” activity, sufficient sleep is increasingly being recognized as an essential aspect of health promotion and chronic disease prevention in the public health community.

Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression which threaten our nation’s health. Notably, insufficient sleep is associated with the onset of these diseases and also poses important implications for their management and outcome. Moreover, insufficient sleep is responsible for motor vehicle and machinery-related accidents, causing substantial injury and disability each year. In short, drowsy driving can be as dangerous and preventable as driving while intoxicated.

Notably, more than one-quarter of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, while nearly 10% experience chronic insomnia. However, new methods for assessing and treating sleep disorders bring hope to the millions suffering from insufficient sleep. Fundamental to the success of all of these efforts is the recognition that sufficient sleep is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and should be thought of as a vital sign of good health.

Source: CDC Sleep Site

How Much Sleep Do I need?

While there is variability between each of us in how much sleep we need, the National Sleep Foundation has noted that the need for sleep changes as we age. On average, adolescents and adults need between 7-9.5 hours of sleep per night.

Common Sleep Disorders

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

To learn more about these disorders visit the CDC Sleep site.

Sleep Hygiene Tips

The promotion of regular sleep is known as sleep hygiene. The following is a list of sleep hygiene tips which can be used to improve sleep. Also included is a list of special relevance to adolescents, who may experience sleep difficulties due to circadian rhythm changes occurring during the teenage years and into young adulthood.

Adults:

  1. Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.
  2. Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot or too cold.
  3. Make sure your bed is comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music. Remove all TVs, computers, and other “gadgets” from the bedroom.
  4. Physical activity may help promote sleep, but not within a few hours of bedtime.
  5. Avoid large meals before bedtime.

Adolescents/Young Adults:

  1. Avoid caffeinated drinks after lunch.
  2. Avoid bright light in the evening.
  3. Avoid arousing activities around bedtime (e.g., heavy study, text messaging, getting into prolonged conversations).
  4. Expose yourself to bright light upon awakening in the morning.
  5. While sleeping in on weekends is permissible, it should not be more than 2–3 hours past your usual wake time, to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm governing sleepiness and wakefulness.
  6. Avoid pulling an “all-nighter” to study.

Source: Adapted From: Taheri S. The link between short sleep duration and obesity: We should recommend more sleep to prevent obesity. Arch Dis Child 2006;91:881:884 and CDC Sleep Hygiene Tips.

Stress and Anxiety

Having the blues, feeling anxious, losing interest in enjoyable activities, or getting stressed from time to time are all part of life. But it may be more serious when it continues for a long time or affects daily activities such as going to class or your social life. Stress is the body’s response to any demand or pressure. These demands are called stressors. Your mental and physical health can be at risk when stressors in your life are constant.

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It helps one deal with a tense situation in the office, study harder for an exam, and keep focused on an important speech. In general, it helps one cope. But when anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it has become a disabling disorder. More information on anxiety.

Five Major Types of Anxiety Disorders:

Suicide

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-aged students. Sadly, this is increasing among young females and young males, between the ages of 15–19. Most common ways people commit suicide among this age group is through hanging and suffocation and poisoning. It is a devastating reality that affects many more people than just the person attempting to commit suicide. If you are considering suicide or suspect that someone you know is considering committing suicide, you should contact help immediately! The UA Counseling Center can help. Call the Counseling Center at (205) 348-3863 or UA Police Department at (205) 348-5454. Common Signs of Suicide:

  • Depressed mood
  • Substance Abuse
  • Frequent episodes of running away or being incarcerated
  • Family loss or instability; significant problems with parents
  • Expressions of suicidal thoughts, or talk of death or the afterlife during moments of sadness or boredom
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Difficulties in dealing with sexual orientation
  • No longer interested in or enjoying activities that once were pleasurable
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Impulsive, aggressive behavior or frequent expressions of rage

To get the facts on suicide, visit the Teen Education and Crisis Hotline (TEACH) Hear one-minute podcast on preventing further suicides. Hotlines: National Drug and Alcohol Treatment: (800) 662-HELP National Youth Crisis Hotline: (800) 4-A-CHILD National Adolescent Suicide Hotline: (800) HIT-HOME

Time Management
  1. Work on becoming more organized and Set Priorities:

    Make a schedule that allows you to do your work and have fun. Having less commitments will help you to maximize your time. Do NOT CRAM for tests – study a little every day. Make some social plans in advance: if you know you are going out to celebrate your roommate’s birthday on Wednesday make sure you do Thursday’s assignment early.

  2. Plan your activities:

    If you pack your bag the night before, you save five minutes in the morning. This will help to ensure that you make it to class on-time and have what you need! Also, plan your snacks and meals the night before, especially if you have classes back-to-back. This will help you to feel well while being academically successful.

    Try to schedule your day in hours (for example, English class from 9:00 – 10:00am, workout at the Rec from 11:00am-12:00pm, etc.), you can remember the 2:00pm study date you planned after your 1:00 pm class, the plans you made with your roommate at 12:00pm for lunch, or the extra review session your professor is offering at 5:00pm.