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Pursuing higher education is a milestone — but if you’re a student in the 2020s, you likely face new stressors many alums wouldn’t quite understand. Some people might wonder, “Should college students go to therapy?”
Following the onset of COVID-19, students have had to navigate several changes to their school’s rules and campus life, some experiencing college during the pandemic for the first time entirely.
While there’s still much to look forward to as you embark on your academic journey, from gaining independence to meeting new people, this new era of growth and responsibility can negatively affect your mental well-being.
If you’ve found yourself struggling with your mental health, you might find that therapy to be the right course. Here’s everything students should know about going to therapy in college.
College Students Are Under Intense Pressure
Research points to declining mental health trends among college students in the United States. A recent study published by Boston University found that depression rates increased by 135% among young people from 2013 to 2021. Likewise, anxiety rates increased by 110%.
The COVID-19 pandemic was undoubtedly a catalyst for poor mental health among college students. According to the Student Voice survey by Inside Higher Ed, 53% of respondents felt increasingly anxious about life amid academic disruptions, remote learning, and isolation.
Additionally, students have had to navigate insurmountable losses over the last two years. Estimates suggest that 30% of college students lost a loved one during the first 12 months of the pandemic, with 1.7% experiencing complicated grief for six months or longer.
Another study indicated that students had experienced an average of 6.3 non-death losses, citing loss of normalcy as the most prominent.
College students face several other challenges unrelated to COVID-19, such as increased pressure to maintain their grades, an unstable job market, and rising tuition costs. Currently, students spend an average of $35,551 annually to attend school.
Few high school students learn the basic independent living skills necessary to meet their needs. Once they hit college, the stress of living away from home, how to act like an adult, and figuring out what they want out of life piles up.
Students going through bouts of depression and anxiety might experience some or all of the most common symptoms, such as:
- Feelings of overwhelm or panic
- Difficulty focusing on schoolwork
- Sleep deprivation or sleeping for too long
- Loss of interest in activities and socializing
- Low energy levels
- Changes in appetite
- Thoughts of suicide or the desire to self-harm
Although the Mayo Clinic highlights an increased risk of depression for low-income, minority, LGBTQ, and female students, those of all genders, races, and backgrounds can find themselves in a rut.
Benefits of Going to Therapy in College
College marks a chapter of growth for students as they transition from childhood to adulthood. Some students thrive from the beginning, embracing the challenges of navigating their newfound independence. Meanwhile, others take longer adjusting to grown-up responsibilities.
Students with chronic stress may have weakened immune systems, frequent headaches, and digestive problems. Fortunately, counseling services can help.
Counselors have the skills to develop coping strategies on an individual basis. College students who seek treatment for their mental health can benefit in several ways, such as:
- Developing greater self-awareness
- Improving their self-esteem and self-acceptance
- Eliminating limiting beliefs and behavioral patterns
- Finding better ways to manage emotions and self-expression
- Relieving feelings of anxiety and depression
- Improving decision-making
- Coming up with ways to handle stressful situations
- Figuring out their life’s purpose and setting goals for the future
- Improving their problem-solving skills
Students who feel bogged down by their academics and personal life should address their problems before their feelings take hold of their academic performance.
How to Find a Therapist in College
Any student that believes they’d benefit from seeing a therapist should inquire about their college or university’s counseling services. Most college campuses include mental health counseling in tuition, meaning students can gain counseling and additional therapy resources for free.
Otherwise, searching for a therapist on Google or through their parents’ insurance is bound to bring up results for excellent specialists in the area.
Students should keep different counseling credentials in mind when looking for a doctor. For instance, psychiatrists — those with an M.D. or D.O. — diagnose mental health conditions and prescribe medicine.
On the other hand, psychologists — Ph.D., Psy.D., and Ed.D. — do not prescribe medication, focusing on one-to-one or group talk therapy as an effective treatment plan.
Your Mental Health Matters
College life is full of opportunities but can be equally stressful for some. Should college students go to therapy? They absolutely should if academic pressures are weighing heavily on them.
Therapists can offer students tips for coping with their emotions and stress, preventing burnout and helping improve their academic achievement.