How mental illness affects the college student’s role

A 10-page paper, being involved in two organizations, three exams, miscellaneous homework assignments and getting behind on notes in classes are some examples of student responsibilities. The stress attached to these responsibilities can manifest into mental illness.

Anders Svensen, sophomore business economics major, pushes through stressful situations by taking a break from homework to spend time with friends. 

“Best way to do it [overcoming stress] is by hanging out with friends,” Svensen said. “Also getting a proper amount of sleep every night helped me a lot.”

Over time, stress can weigh students down and eventually develop into mental illnesses if they aren’t checked, said Darci Nichols, assistant Wellness Center director of Counseling Services. 

Thirty percent of college students have reported feeling so “down” that it was hard to function, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Nichols said the most prevalent mental illnesses among students are anxiety and depression. 

Statistics show that one in five adults have a mental health condition, according to NAMI. 

Bradley Woldt, head of the Department of Psychology, said family history can play into their mental health.

“If a student’s family has a history of mental illness, he or she is vulnerable to developing a mental health condition with the increased stress college has, and it will eventually manifest itself,” Woldt said.

According to NAMI, there are many ways to help relieve some of the stress, anxiousness and depression students might come across. Students can start managing stress by creating a to-do list, exercising, getting enough sleep and listening to relaxing music.

Being comfortable enough to talk to community assistants, a counselor or family and friends can help make sense of the situation.

Katelyn Smith, fifth-year senior food science major, said time-management helps her to say relaxed. 

“Organizing everything that I have planned to do during the week (helps),” Smith said. “Also being able to talk to classmates and professors helped a lot as well.”

Nichols said anxiety and depression not only have a mental toll on the body, but they can also have a physical impact on students. Anxiety can cause headaches, nausea, anxiety attacks and somatic complaints.

Somatic complaints are those that have no medical explanation. The complaints of physical ailments may be real to the person affected, but physically there is no evidence.

Depression can cause headaches, mood changes, inability to experience joy and antisocial tendencies.

Nichols also said anxiety and depression can impact class attendance, affect concentration and the ability to focus on schoolwork or anything else of importance.

Anxiety can impact class attendance and can also portray itself as procrastination. Anxiety also can cause a student’s ability to complete homework or study. 

Depression can impact sleep which can later manifest itself as an attendance issue. Depression can take a toll on motivation to the point where it just “slows you down, ” Nichols said. 

Talking to someone is one of the most effective ways to relieve anxiety and depression. However, there are a few steps students can take by themselves that may help.

NAMI mentioned yoga, meditation or exercising in general can be ways to help relieve built-up emotions.

Although students may not be experiencing these difficulties, they could be in a position to help a friend or classmate who looks like they are experiencing emotional distress, according to NAMI.

Speaking up and letting the student know people care about them could help them get help.