"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,
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.
Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot or too cold.
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.
Physical activity may help promote sleep, but not within a few hours of bedtime.
Avoid large meals before bedtime.
Avoid caffeinated drinks after lunch.
Avoid bright light in the evening.
Avoid arousing activities around bedtime (e.g., heavy study, text messaging, getting into prolonged conversations).
Expose yourself to bright light upon awakening in the morning.
While sleeping in on weekends is permissible, it should not be more
than 2â€“3 hours past your usual wake time, to avoid disrupting your
circadian rhythm governing sleepiness and wakefulness.
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.
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:
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
Impulsive, aggressive behavior or frequent expressions of rage
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.
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.