Understanding mental health is a growing issue today, and one major issue regarding mental illness that is misunderstood and growing in numbers is suicide, particularly in college students.
According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2006 study, suicide is the third leading cause of death in young adults aged 18-25.
Junior psychology major and Active Minds president Tim Martin, 20, said he believes that the stress of college is one of the main factors that can lead to suicide and depression for young adults.
“College is a stressful time,” Martin said, “and different disorders come out at different times of stress.”
College does bring in a lot of stress and stressful circumstances for a lot of students, from the non-stop battle with balancing a social life and academics, to the debt and loans one may pick up for most colleges and universities.
According the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s (SAMHSA) website, The American College Health Association’s 2008 National College Health Assessment found that 94 percent of the college and university students surveyed reported that they felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do.
In fact, the extent of the effect of college stress is often something not known around campus. Dr. Melissa Nard, associate professor for the department of Psychology and the adviser for the Active Minds organization, said that this growing issue has been evident in the counseling center.
“Every semester, a student is hospitalized [due to anxiety caused by stress],” Nard said, “We see a wide range of issues.”
Nard also encourages her students to go voluntarily, but she added, “We can use force if need be.”
Sophomore public health major and vice president of Active Minds Morgan Arentz, 19, said she believes that the openness, on top of the stress one may face in college, is another reason why this recurrence has been able to get so much attention.
“There is better awareness of your emotions,” Arentz said, “and that leads to more early detections.”
Arentz said that early detection is key to helping students on college campuses. Early detection is done by observing symptoms and signs in students.
Nard said there are signs and symptoms that one can be aware of when trying to prevent them from becoming worse.
“There are a range of signs and symptoms,” she said. “Some include general changes in mood, excessive behavior, and changes in eating behaviors.”
Some other symptoms to watch for, according to Nard, are alcohol abuse, drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, and withdrawal from activities.
Nard also emphasized taking advantage of the resources.
“[Mental illness] is a nationally growing trend, but college students are more willing to get help,” Nard said.
The counseling center helps students by setting up individual meetings, and also reaching out to students in focus groups. But it’s hard to detect warning signs based on these signals alone because not all students are easy to read, according to Martin.
“It all depends on the person,” Martin said. “Some are in a more open group, and others are closed off.”
Although attempting to help with this issue may seem like a large feat on an individual basis, there are many grants that are being given out to colleges around the country to fund or create programs, as well as start new programs to prevent student suicides, according to SAMHSA’s website.
Slippery Rock’s Counseling Center is just one of the many organizations that works to prevent suicides as well as work with many students on how to cope with the amount of stress that college brings.
The Active Minds organization is another resource that tries to bring awareness to many disorders that are often misunderstood today, according to Martin.
Martin, as president, said that he has seen a huge improvement of members and of awareness over the past two years. Both Martin and Arentz have been in the club since their freshman year, and both said they have seen a major improvement on campus.
“From last year until now, the group has doubled in size,” Arentz said. “[During] my first meeting here, the only members were my friend and myself.”
It is the motto of the Active Minds organization and of the counseling center to raise awareness of suicide and other mental illnesses that affect others. According to Nard, Active Minds centers many of its presentations on the 1-in-4 statistic, where one in every four adults is diagnosed with a mental illness.
Nard said that she and the members of Active Minds all hope that the stigmas will be erased through awareness activities on campus, and help understand what bring about mental illness and how to help someone affected by mental illness.