College is supposed to be one of the best times of a person’s life, creating positive memories. However, it’s hard to do when more and more college students are struggling with mental health and addiction concerns.

Last academic year, more than 60% of college students across 373 campuses nationwide suffered from at least one mental health condition. And in a fall 2021 survey of 33,204 U.S. college students, half said that they were struggling to tolerate stress and other unpleasant feelings, while 22% said that they felt overwhelmed by intense emotions.

That same survey found that nearly 70% of college students said that they drank alcohol, while 36.7% said that they used marijuana, 8.8% said that they used hallucinogens like Ecstasy, and 7.2% said that they abused prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.

Sadly, it comes as no surprise then that the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that the percentage of addiction was higher among U.S. college-age adults (24.4%) than among adults age 26 and older (14%).

Facing a New Set of Challenges

College students aren’t just having to adapt to their newfound freedom and campus life. They’re facing an array of challenges that are unique to college students today.

Many students are still adjusting to in-person learning after spending a year learning remotely during the pandemic. The time they would’ve spent honing their social skills wasn’t available, and they were forced to interact through video chats and message boards. They couldn’t have study groups at the library, lively debates in the classroom, or one-on-one chats with their teachers when they needed extra support.

After living in isolation, getting back into the campus environment can make it that much harder to adjust. The lack of structure, erratic sleep schedules, and pressure to make new friends can be overwhelming. Without the tools to know how to chart a path, students can start to feel lost and isolated. They may also feel concerned about their safety. As recently as November, a mass shooting took place at the University of Virginia that resulted in the loss of three lives. This likely brought up painful and frightening memories of other mass shootings on campuses across the nation, like Umpqua Community College in 2015, Northern Illinois University in 2008, and Virginia Tech in 2007.

And, with 46 school shootings at K-12 institutions this year alone, most college students today grew up during a time when these incidents were always a possible threat. As they leave home for a place filled with unknowns, they may be asking themselves, am I safe?

Finding the Right Resources

Knowing what kinds of stressors college students are dealing with, it makes sense that they are struggling with mental health and addiction concerns at such a high rate. But that doesn’t mean that they have to. With the right support and resources, they can manage those feelings in healthy ways.

Some colleges and universities offer counseling services right on campus, which can be a convenient option for students while they are taking classes. Students can then work with their on-campus counselor to arrange ongoing treatment while they’re back home during breaks.

Higher education institutions may also offer referral services for providers, programs, and facilities near campus. In these situations, the college health center typically assesses a student’s history and symptoms and then refers them to a place that provides the type and level of care that best fits their situation.

If mental health or addiction treatment services aren’t available through the school, students can still find professional support near campus. They can start by making an appointment with a local primary care provider or looking for mental health or addiction treatment facilities in the area.

College should be a time filled with new, positive experiences. If a college student thinks that they might be struggling with an addiction or a mental health condition, they should reach out to professionals for support.

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