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Mental Health has always been a topic that never gets discussed as often as it should be. However, given that it’s 2018, a lot of progress has been made. There was a lot of stigma regarding mental health and severe conditions were looked down upon. That’s not the case anymore as more and more people open up about mental health problems.

However, a large reason for the increase in mental health awareness is due to the exponential rise of mental health cases. One group that’s seen a significant rise in mental health problems has been students, especially US students. New research shows that the number has risen quite a lot between 2009 and 2015.

The new study estimates that 26% of all people aged 18 and above have some sort of mental health issue in any given year. It also revealed shocking details which really make you question the education system. Most mental disorders such as anxiety and depression were found to have started at ages as early as 14. The majority of mental health issues started at age 25, which is still a very young age. Another interesting thing about the research was that it studied over half a million US undergraduate students, showing the flaws of the current education system.

Image: Everyday Health

12 different mental health cases were studied

Sara Oswalt, from the University of Texas at San Antonio and her team looked at a ton of different mental health conditions in their study. They looked at the diagnosis and treatment for anorexia, anxiety, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, bulimia, depression, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, phobia, schizophrenia, and substance abuse/addiction.

The researchers also took a large dataset from American College Health Association and used statistical tools to interpret and analyze what the data meant with regards to their research question. They looked at things such as the use of available medical services on campus and the willingness of students to use them in the future.

Anxiety, Depression

The study found that over the course of the years, there was an increase in the diagnosis of anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. Treatments and diagnoses for anxiety rose by 5.6 percent between 2009 and 2015, for depression by 3.2 percent, and for panic attacks by 2.8 percent.

It was also found that students were more willing to seek help from on-campus facilities than others. However, that could be attributed to the low-budget most students live on since a lot of them are already on loans and scholarships. By the end of the research period (2009-2015), a 4 percent increase since the start was seen in students who had used on-campus medical facilities. This equates to around one-fifth of students claiming to have used the services available on campus.

Another increase that was observed was in the readiness to use medical facilities in the future. A 6 percent increase was observed where three-quarters of the respondents said that they’d be willing to use campus facilities in the future. The results are alarming, to say the least. Mental health is a huge issue given that these issues are beginning to pop up at an early age, it really makes you wonder what college life is like.

Image: medium

Image: medium

Universities should take care of their students better

What are the possible explanations for such a drastic upward trend? Oswald argues that it could either be due to the worsening of mental health or due to the fact that the stigma surrounding mental health has significantly decreased since then. Although college environments aren’t entirely to blame for this, they are certainly one of the contributing factors.

“Higher education institutions want students to be successful in college, but if mental health issues aren’t adequately addressed, it will make student success more difficult to achieve,” says Oswald. “Universities should first examine the overall culture surrounding mental health on their campus.”

The educational system nowadays a lot more different than it once used to be. Not only are students paying so much in fees, a majority of which are indebted for life due to loans, a lot of expected out of them. Naturally, if you’re paying $50,000 a year to study at a top institution, you would expect a lot out of your degree. Then there’s the college environment itself.

Students have to deal with managing their physical health, their social life and their studies which becomes a big problem. There’s not enough time during the day to manage all three. The study portion takes up so much time that there’s no time for the student to do anything else. Eventually, the overwhelming burden and the stress of studies start piling up which leads to issues like anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.

If the overall culture is not one that promotes health, that will need to be considered before step two, which is providing support for prevention in a variety of areas. This may include sleep instruction, stress reduction, and exercise. Step three needs to be adequately staffing counseling and health centers so those in need of services can be seen.”-Sara Oswalt.

Each institution should rethink the workload they put on students and provide appropriate counseling to those who need it. As Oswald said, each institution will need to develop strategies pertaining to their own environment to minimize the deterioration of mental health amongst their students. If action isn’t taken, then this upward trend will likely continue and increase over time.


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