Colleges and universities must do more to address mental health issues

The following commentary is by Anais Lopez,  a fellow with the UnidosUS youth leadership program Líderes Avanzando Through College. It was originally published on the UnidosUS education blog

Mental health of students
Credit: iStock

One in three. Thirty-three percent. That’s the proportion of today’s college students who need some kind of mental-health support, according to Mind Share Partners. At UCLA, where most students live in triple bed dorms, that’s one student per room. College students are viewed by many Americans as the nation’s “privileged” young people. So why are their rates of mental health issues so high?

People of every race and gender, and every socioeconomic and educational level, face mental-health risks. But college can be a particularly stressful time. Students experience anxiety over classwork, family pressures, and the rising costs of tuition, housing, and food. Many undergraduates are sleep-deprived, and barraged with self-loathing humor online that discourages positive thinking. The 2018 National College Health Assessment found that 60 percent of students reported experiencing crushing anxiety, and 40 percent had symptoms of depression. Overall, 87.4 percent of the students surveyed felt “overwhelmed by all (they) had to do in the last 12 months.”

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And some groups come under unique pressures. Immigrant students may worry about their immigration status. Discriminatory attitudes from authority figures and peers, even their own roommates, can leave them feeling fearful, inadequate, and undeserving. First-generation college students sometimes think they’re failing their parents if their grades aren’t perfect. And many students in the LGBTQA+ community “come out” during college, exposing them to fears of reprisal or abandonment by friends and family.

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