Help college

I earned my PhD in political science at the State University of New York at Albany in 2009 and taught courses in the discipline as visiting faculty since 2006. I am now a stay-at-home dad, blogger, and contributing columnist for several news outlets.
Few things come close to college life. It is, in many significant ways, preparation for your future life as an adult. The experience is full of moments of discovery regarding yourself (opinions, values, beliefs, etc.) at the same time you deal with being on your own, perhaps for the very first time, facing day-to-day responsibilities (room and board, bills, and that for your own actions). Also, news about college shootings like Virginia Tech’s can be nerve-racking. All that on top of the very basic obligations you must fulfill regarding your coursework. In all, college life can be very overwhelming. This is the environment for mental illness.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, one-fifth of all college students in the US experience a mental illness, and 27% of young adults between 18 and 24 (the typical college years) are afflicted with a treatable mental illness. Moreover, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reveals that many students have been diagnosed with or receiving treatment for anxiety and depression (11% and 10% respectively), and almost 73% of those college students who suffer a mental illness experienced a mental health crisis on campus.
The most important reason why mental health should be your priority is that it can have a very negative impact on you as a college student. According to NAMI, depression and anxiety are the most common reasons students cite for issues with academic performance, and illnesses like bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders – as well as depression – are presented as reasons for dropping out of college. Unfortunately, says NAMI, more than half of college students with mental illness did not seek reasonable accommodations from their instructors and another 40% did not seek help out of fear of being stigmatized. In the worst of cases, an untreated mental illness can lead to suicide, considered to be the third cause of death on college campuses.
You do not have to be another sad statistic. Your life is too precious to not ask for help when the stress of college life pushes your buttons. That piece of advice is, indeed, the most critical. To find constructive ways to deal with that stress is also important. Regular exercise, good nutrition, a strong support system, and even regular attendance to the place of worship of your choice are very effective stress-busters.
You can also make a difference by encouraging your campus to have all the necessary resources to help peers with mental illness, from crisis hotlines to suicide prevention programs. Spread the word about mental illness on campus by organizing awareness campaigns, creating student groups focused on the issue or offering ways to reduce stress (ex. daily meditation), writing to your college paper editor to start a conversation, or engaging with student affairs officers.
The changes college life will effect on you are positive and lasting. Do not let mental illness get in the way of what is otherwise a transformative experience. Make mental health your priority.

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