Mental Health on Campus: How It Impacts Students

How can schools support students? Should they be doing more?

Mental Health on Campus: How It Impacts Students (Getty Images)

After the news of two students at North Carolina State University taking their own lives, I decided to speak with students across the United States to hear their experiences and concerns with mental health on campus. 

Jesse Morris, a rising senior at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, sees himself and other engineering students get lost in the discussions on mental health. 

He wrote an article about the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the barriers students face accessing services. While Morris thinks the campus does a good job of providing psychological services to students, he also notes that students with less time in their schedules may be unable to access the services. 

Morris called CAPS and had to wait 11 days until his initial consultation. He ended up asking the student intern how busy the office was. While Morris was finally able to attend an initial session, there was a problem — his engineering classes conflicted with the appointment times offered. 

“My mental health 110% correlates with academic and social stresses,” Morris said. “During the last year, there were some rough spots socially that were bad before I arrived on campus, and the extra workload and little time to relax pushed me quite far. I’m doing better now, but things could have gone a different way.”

He believed that busy student schedules also contribute to the lack of availability to access mental health resources. While the school referred students who cannot make the individual appointment times to outside counseling, he saw this as being a hurdle for some.

Due to his course load, he experienced long classes in addition to homework which translated to less time to relax. 

“I have an app that tracks my average hours of sleep, actually, and while it’s not perfect it kinda shows what I mean,” he said. “From early October to around last week, my average hours of sleep was below 5.2 hours per night including sleeping-in on weekends. You’d spend a lot of your weekends doing homework, too, as some can take like 30 mins to 1 hour per problem to complete with six to eight to do for one class. You feel like you just have to deal with it, because that’s what engineers do, and that may lead to stigmatization for those who can’t handle it as well.”

Stella Delp

Stella Delp, graduated from Stanford University, wants to see financial support for outsource treatment as an option so a student does not have to utilize a therapist on campus. While on campus, she has generally heard negative comments about Stanford’s mental health resources.

Delp has struggled with her mental health since she was 5. Growing up, she struggled with OCD and, during middle school, her depression worsened. During high school, she developed anorexia and was unable to attend school due to medical leave. Because of this, she was afraid to go to college and was not sure what resources might be available. During Delp’s time in college, she found that her mental health gravitated. Looking back, she feels that she tried to do too much with school as she balanced working a job, conducting research, being part of clubs, and founding a non-profit organization. 

Delp thinks that for freshmen, it can be difficult to have meaningful connections and friendships which can provide support. 

“Throughout college, developing relationships where people can be vulnerable, share struggles, and learn from one another is so essential,” Delp said. 

Delp has noticed that students do not use the resources Stanford provides unless they are in crisis. 

“Unfortunately, the best treatment is found in private practice, which is pocket and inaccessible to students,” she said. “I’ve seen some students try self-medicating, suffer alone, and turn to negative coping mechanisms before tapping into campus resources.”

Simon Lamar

Simon Lamar, a rising senior at Harvard University, who was initially going to graduate in 2022, said that even though there are centers and clubs meant to help students with their mental healt. He added that the college needs to prioritize mental health at its core. He is graduating two years late, partly due to his mental health after he took his freshman fall off. Lamar also took the during the 2020 – 2021 school year off. Nearly 20% of undergraduate students at his university did the same. 

During Lamar’s first semester, he struggled with his mental health. He expressed concern about Harvard’s competitive environment as it has led to insecurity and toxicity. He noted that imposter syndrome has been real, and the value he and his peers see in themselves has been impacted by comparison. This is especially true during the search for internship opportunities which can cause additional stress. 

Lamar saw a lot of overcrowding and long wait times of up to six weeks at the mental health center on campus. Because of this, Harvard partnered with TimelyCare to allow students to access clinicians sooner through virtual meetings. Yet, even with this access, surveys have shown that students are not satisfied. 

Lamar hopes to see more licensed clinicians in the center on campus, as well as more students who feel comfortable getting extra help. 

Ilana Drake is a journalist from New York City and attends school in Nashville. Follow her on Twitter: @IlanaDrake_ 

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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