Coping with Back To School: Rising Depression and Anxiety Rates on Campus Met with a Rise in Student Support-Seeking

The transition to college is exciting, yet it brings new challenges, including a rise in Mental Health issues. Back-to-school Anxiety can keep students from thriving on campus, so it’s time we understand and address this growing concern.

Key Takeaways

  • College students face unique challenges that can lead to Depression and Anxiety.
  • Identifying the specific types of disorders and their symptoms is crucial for effective intervention.
  • Complex factors like school Stress, COVID-19, and environmental triggers contribute to Mental Health issues.
  • Seeking mental health support while in college, including therapies and medications, is up 7% from 2020.

Depression and Anxiety on College Campuses

The recent research from HealthyMinds, which received responses from 96,000 U.S. students across 133 campuses during the 2021–22 academic year, 44 percent reported symptoms of Depression, 37 percent said they experienced Anxiety and 15 percent said they have seriously considered suicide—the highest rates in the survey’s 15-year history.

Depression and Anxiety disorders are not monolithic; they manifest in various forms, each with specific symptoms and behaviors. College students may face several types of these disorders, all of which require distinct understanding and treatment.

In the past few years, the pressures on students have become more multifaceted and taxing, significantly contributing to a rise in Mental Health issues. Throw recovering from a global pandemic into the mix, and college students these days are facing more challenges than ever before.

This trend is more concerning because college years are a critical period in a young adult’s life, where they are more vulnerable to mental health challenges. Left unaddressed, these issues can lead to academic struggles, social isolation, and other serious long-term consequences.

As our society continues to recognize the importance of mental well-being, it is imperative to focus on the specific challenges faced by college students and devise strategies to address these pressing issues. It’s on us to help improve students’ lives and foster a healthier and more supportive educational environment.

The uniqueness of the college environment, with its blend of academic, social, and personal growth challenges, can trigger or exacerbate these conditions. It’s crucial for students, educators, and mental health professionals to recognize these specific types of depression and anxiety. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment can make a profound difference in a student’s college experience, enabling them to thrive both academically and personally. Understanding these varied disorders and their manifestations in the college setting is a significant step toward fostering mental well-being on campuses.

Treatment Approaches for College Students’ Mental Health

However, according to the same survey, students are now getting more help than in the past. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they have received mental health counseling in the past year, a 7 percent increase from 2020. This can be attributed to telehealth options for mental health care making therapy more accessible for college students with busy schedules.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely used approach for treating anxiety and depression, and it can be highly effective for college students. Alongside CBT, Group Therapy sessions conducted on campus can foster a sense of community and shared experience, making therapy more approachable.

In some cases, prescription medications, including antidepressants and anxiety medication, can be a crucial part of treatment for students, but proper management and follow-up are vital to ensure the medication’s efficacy and address any side effects.

Another positive finding that came out of the survey, is that binge drinking is also down, with 54 percent of respondents saying they haven’t consumed any alcohol in the past two weeks and 17 percent reporting that they consumed alcohol but did not binge drink.

Colleges are encouraged to support students’ overall well-being through self-care practices like mindfulness, meditation, or physical exercise, and campus wellness programs that promote healthy eating, sleep hygiene, and stress management can provide supportive frameworks. Peer-led support groups can create safe spaces for students to share experiences and strategies, as peers can often relate to one another’s challenges in ways professionals may not. Additionally, colleges must have robust systems in place to address mental health crises, because timely and appropriate intervention and support is key!

Recognizing the diverse backgrounds of college students, mental health programs should also be culturally sensitive and inclusive, accommodating different beliefs, values, and practices. College campuses are a fantastic place for young people of all backgrounds to learn about mental health, and more and more of them are implementing programs and initiatives to meet the growing need for depression and anxiety support.

Authored By 

LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health

LifeStance is a mental healthcare company focused on providing evidence-based, medically driven treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults suffering from a variety of mental health issues in an outpatient care setting, both in-person and through its digital health telemedicine offering.