Webinar Recap: Prioritizing Mental Health for the College-Bound
Students who are going through the college admissions process are facing more challenges than ever, particularly as the pandemic continues to spread. To ensure that students keep their mental health at top of mind, College Confidential hosted a webinar on Nov. 10 entitled "Prioritizing Mental Health for the College-Bound: Trends, Advocacy and Tips" to share information that can help make the journey smoother.
During the event, Inside Track's Crisis Interventionists, Renae Roemmich and Ivy Ricci, provided advice and research to help students manage stress during this period.
Prepare for the Changes on Your Radar Screen
A startling 87 percent of college students surveyed said they felt overwhelmed by their workloads, according to a 2019 report by the American College Health Association, Roemmich said. "Some of the most common mental health issues that college students report on are dealing with issues of addiction, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, panic attacks and sleep dysregulation," she noted.
The brain doesn't reach full maturity until the age of 25, but about three quarters of lifetime cases of mental health conditions begin by age 24, Roemmich noted. "Almost 73 percent of students living with a mental health condition will experience a mental health crisis while on campus," she said. This may be due to the new living conditions and stressors that students face in their new environments, she added.
Advocate for Yourself
When students feel stressed and overloaded, they may react without being able to respond in the way they'd want, Ricci said. However, because the brain is interconnected to the body, if students pause and take slow, deep breaths, they can more easily process these stressors. In addition, don't be afraid to ask for everything you need to keep your mental health intact.
"Be shameless when it comes to your needs," Roemmich said. "You're the only one advocating for yourself now and saying if you need something. And this is a huge life change – it's now up to you … college is a great time to start practicing your advocacy skills."
For instance, she advises, it's okay to approach a new teacher and let them know what your situation is, and ask if they have policies on things like requesting extra time, or whether you can contact them if you are struggling. "You don't know what you're walking into with a new teacher or new environment, so by having that first interaction with them, you'll get a taste of what that teacher is like." Perhaps they'll be glad you told them about your mental health struggles and are willing to accommodate you, but even if they aren't, you'll know what to expect going forward.
This information-gathering phase will allow you to be ready to best advocate for yourself. You also don't need to disclose everything you're going through, Roemmich added. Although you may want to tell a teacher you are dealing with something and it may impact your engagement in class, you don't necessarily have to tell them all the details of what you're dealing with.
You'll also want to do some detective work when you first get to campus so you can evaluate what the mental health resources are like. Find out if you have an R.A., a therapy center, clubs that may support you or other options, Roemmich said.
Avoid Burnout With These Tips
It's important to catch yourself when you're first facing stress so you don't end up falling into burnout, since that's much harder to emerge from, producing feelings of exhaustion and hopelessness.
"Prioritize your mental health as much as you would your physical health," Ricci said. Although someone would notice if you had a broken leg, mental challenges are often invisible, but can lead to the same type of inertia as physical issues. "It's just so important pay attention to the signs," she noted. "Be proactive. Don't keep putting out fires, take time to do some fireproofing."
If you feel the signs of burnout approaching, approach someone you trust, such as a teacher, a counselor, an R.A. or others who can help you get out of it. The burnout symptoms include the following, among others, she noted:
- Headaches and muscle tension
- Trouble with sleep patterns
- Feeling overwhelmed and cynical
- Feeling frustrated and unfulfilled
- "Sunday Night Blues" before school
- A sense of apathy or "over complaining"
- Persistently feeling depleted
- Irritability or losing your temper
- Drink water and eat well
- Write down your stressors and problem-solve solutions for each
- Meditate and exercise
- Connect with nature
- Take a mental health day
- Talk it over with friends, family or your counselor
- Get enough sleep
- Budget time for your mental health as you would homework
- Find your community
- Identify who will champion you
By employing the strategies above that will work best for you, you can put your mental health at front and center so you prioritize it, they noted.
Resource: To view a replay of the webinar, click the video above.