Rise in mental health issues among college students

By Stefanie Maldonado
Pulse Staff Reporter

Photo of Palo Alto College student struggle with the stress of college coursework.
Palo Alto College student struggles with the stress of college coursework.

With mental health issues on the rise among college students, it may be difficult to tell the difference between stress and something more serious.

Being part of the college culture is demanding. Many students are parents with family responsibilities. Some students’ work full-time or part-time, and schoolwork can be challenging and time-consuming. Countless students claim they feel overwhelmed at least once during the semester.

“I am usually on the go so much, with school, work and my kids. It is hard to find time to relax. Usually a good cry helps to relieve the stress, and then I am in a better state of mind,” said Larissa Martinez, a sophomore at Palo Alto College.

According to a National Alliance on Mental Illness study, one in four students has a diagnosable illness, but 40 percent of students try to cope with it alone. Fifty percent have anxiety that affects their schoolwork and everyday life.

Five major mental health areas affect college students: depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders and addiction.

Depression accounts for 36.4 percent of mental health concerns in students, according to the American Psychological Association. It can cause students to drop out of school and lead to other issues if not dealt with as quickly as possible. Depression causes interference with work, sleep, eating and studying.

Suicide deaths on college campuses number more than 1,000 every year. Campussuicidepreventionva.org says suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.

Between tests, homework, projects — and for some — work, feeling overwhelmed can occur often for college students. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States reports the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It affects 40 million adults over the age of 18. Students get anxiety with the pressure of test taking and finals.

“I always listen to music. I can always count on music to take me to a better place…” said Jesse Martinez, a sophomore at Palo Alto College.

Another issue college students face are eating disorders. When eating disorders are mentioned, they are usually identified as “women’s issues,” but men are also affected. Meanwhile, 25 percent of women in college have binged or purged to maintain their weight, according to by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Three of the most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder (BED).

Addiction is also very common among college students. Studies have shown that 80 percent of students drink or are exposed to alcohol, 19 percent have met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has stated. In the last 12 years, there has been a 93 percent increase of drug stimulants on college campuses, Adderall and Ritalin being the most common. Research reveals that 21.3 percent of students aged 18-25 use drug stimulants around finals for energy and help in concentration, according to 2013 study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings.

Palo Alto offers many resources to students in stressful situations. Tutoring Centers are open daily in case you think that studying a little more will calm your nerves and help to make you feel more confident when taking a test.

Counseling & Support Services offer counseling to Palo Alto College students free of charge and no appointment needed. You can reach the center at (210) 486-3333. They are located in the small building on the courtyard side of the Palomino Center.

Mary Apolinar, counselor at Palo Alto, said, “Exercise is good, seeking or going to counseling is very important, dealing with it spiritually in some way, eating well and talking to friends or family who are willing to listen always helps.”