For some, going to college is not just about taking classes. College comes with many stressors and challenges both in school and at home that can take a huge mental toll on students. Students might have to work to pay for tuition and rent. Some students come home to an apartment full of family members where it’s hard to concentrate and study. Other students, unfortunately, were unable to pass a class, lost their financial aid, and now have to worry about bringing up their GPA and paying for classes. Others may have to care for a child while in school, which can take a mental toll. With Covid, new stressors have been introduced and old ones have been amplified. On top of doing school online, some students are now primary caregivers to sick family members. Many are also dealing with the loss of loved ones, too. Now more than ever, students need more mental health support to get through the challenges they face every day while pursuing their academic goals.
When students are left to endure their struggles alone, it not only negatively impacts their mental health but their physical health as well. Unfortunately, unsupported students are more susceptible to engaging in unhealthy addictive habits such as vaping, smoking, or drinking in an effort to find relief. Not only is this ineffective in the long run, but it also negatively impacts the chances of the students successfully completing their degree and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes.
Colleges and universities need to prioritize the mental wellness of students and work to break the stigma surrounding mental health by making various services and treatment options widely available and accessible, such as counseling, therapy, group sessions, and campus wellness activities. There are a wide variety of options to implement, from therapy dogs to licensed mental health care providers to fit every student’s needs. The benefits of such endeavors include stress relief and improved mental health, which can translate into improved physical health and better grades.
In addition, mental health providers on campus should be diversified. Mental health counselors should mirror the diversity of the student population so they can better address students’ challenges from a cultural standpoint. For all students to thrive mentally and academically, the allocation of more funds, resources, and time to cultivate a rich environment for students to thrive mentally is imperative.
Lucresse Tato is a student at CUNY School of Medicine/Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education and a Spring 2021 Young Advocate with YI-New York.