How Mental Health Affects College Students

There are times in our lives when we feel weighed down. For whatever reason it may be, the strain can take its toll. Learn how mental health affects students.

Clock 2 min read Calendar Published: 16 Jan 2019
Author Luke Garbutt
How Mental Health Affects College Students

There are times in all our lives when we feel weighed down. For whatever reason it may be, the strain can take its toll. We might even find it so oppressive that going about our daily routine becomes a struggle.

As mental health awareness increases, more reports of depression and anxiety amongst college students are coming in. What’s clear is that there is a significant percentage of post-secondary students feeling this weight every day. In fact, a recent report suggests that up to 15% of college students in the United States are affected by anxiety.

The aim of this guide is to highlight some of the common problems students with these conditions face on a daily basis and how they might affect the classroom experience, as well as the higher ed experience as a whole.

College students might be struggling with…

A New Environment

College can be a richly rewarding, life-affirming experience. But it can also provide a level of change and stress that students struggle to adapt to.

Think back to leaving home for the first time. It’s something most of us deal with at some stage of our development. It’s a time of upheaval – especially if you’re moving far away or even to another state.

A new social, physical and academic environment can be intimidating, particularly for those already struggling with a condition like anxiety or depression. And as this will be many students’ first instance of life away from home, networks of support that were previously available may have become distant. Not having that fallback option immediately available when things get tough leads many students to withdraw into themselves.

And despite the fact that the percentage of students experiencing these problems seeking help is now at an all-time high, the majority still struggle against mental illness alone.

What does this mean?

In terms of how this might negatively affect the classroom, it’s useful to break down the specific symptoms of these conditions to get a better picture.

Anxiety and Depression can lead to…

  • Lack of engagement with peers, campus life, studies
  • Feelings of alienation and despair
  • Insomnia or over-sleeping
  • Reduced confidence
  • Reduced concentration
  • Stress
  • Lethargy
  • Self-expression / Articulation
  • Information overload
  • Organization

Cognitive Dysfunction

Recent studies have pointed to the effect depression has on cognitive functioning. As this digest from Harvard indicates, not only does depression have a detrimental impact on mood and thought, but also fundamentally changes how the brain operates.

If a student has depression, particularly major depressive disorder, their ability to process, learn and retain information could be disrupted. And research indicates that this dysfunction could persist even if mood is stabilized through medication. In other words, depression has the potential to rewire your brain, making it more difficult to engage in class and less likely that you’ll absorb important information properly.

After working with 100,000s of students, Glean believes that helping people with anxiety and/or depression must include classroom accommodations as well as the provision and promotion of frontline mental health services.

We understand that Disability Service departments have a tough job. Making sure that students are given the best chance of achieving their potential is always balanced against limited budgets and time. But the right solution for your institution could deliver better outcomes at a lower cost and with relatively minor admin in the long term compared with traditional supports like peer note takers. We want to show you how.


Written by Luke Garbutt

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