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Mental health now a critical issue among college students

A recent survey of nearly 33,000 U.S. college students found they are experiencing mental health challenges at all-time high levels.

College students mental health masking
Mental health issues are prevalent among U.S. college students, a recent survey found. (Source: Adobe Stock)

Half of undergraduate and graduate students polled for the fall 2020 survey, conducted annually online by research organization Healthy Minds Network, reported problems with depression and/or anxiety. Two-thirds said they are struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation, and 83% said their mental health had negatively impacted their academic performance within the past month.

Sarah Ketchen Lipson, an associate professor and mental health researcher at Boston University who co-led the nationwide survey, said these results reflect unprecedented stress among college-age young people due largely to the coronavirus pandemic, with other contributors including national political unrest, financial pressures and other societal issues.

She added that the findings point to a need for university administrators to put mechanisms in place for accommodating students’ mental health needs, and for faculty members to be more connected with individual students as well as more mindful of these challenges when it comes to academic demands.

“Faculty need to be flexible with deadlines and remind students that their talent is not solely demonstrated by their ability to get a top grade during one challenging semester,” Lipson said.

One potential bright spot from the survey, she noted, was that the stigma associated with speaking out about mental health problems has dramatically declined among young people. Nearly all of the students surveyed (94%) said they wouldn’t judge someone for seeking help for mental health issues, which also correlated with the percentage of students who said they would be likely to seek out help themselves during a personal crisis.

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