Contact: Danielle Bickelmann, 214-521-8596
CHICAGO, Sept. 10 /Christian Newswire/ -- This fall, more than two million young men and women across the United States will leave home to begin their college careers. The climates, courses and campuses will be different, but the countless pressures faced by these college freshmen will be the same.
Mental health issues including depression, eating disorders, substance abuse and anxiety, often brought on by the heightened stress of a college environment, have grown increasingly common among college students. As recent news has raised serious concerns about the effects of such issues, especially when left untreated, it is important to take a proactive approach to recognizing and addressing them, says Kimberly Dennis, M.D., medical director of Timberline Knolls, a national residential treatment center for eating disorders, substance abuse, self-injury behavior and other emotional disorders.
"Raising awareness of the mental health struggles met by many college students is a crucial step in fighting the associated stigma that often keeps those suffering from seeking help," Dr. Dennis says. "If students feel comfortable reaching out, issues can be professionally addressed before they become severe, or even dangerous."
According to Dr. Dennis, the following facts should be taken into account as students enter college this fall:
New freedom, new anxiety. Studies show that change, lack of sleep and stress (all commonplace among college freshmen) can be the greatest triggers of mental health issues. Leaving your parents for an unstructured environment is exciting, but it can also cause high levels of stress and anxiety. Late nights, whether spent studying or socializing, also come at a price. Both academic and social stress can lead to depression, which when left untreated can lead to suicide – the second leading cause of death among college students.
New peers, new pressure. College freshmen are surrounded by new personalities and unfamiliar social settings. The desire to fit in can potentially create a spiral of unhealthy behaviors that can lead to problems like alcohol dependence or eating disorders. Students are urged to seek professional help if they drink every day, binge drink to get drunk or if alcohol is interfering with schoolwork or relationships. Also important to note, studies indicate that as many as 19 percent of college-aged American women suffer from bulimia, a dangerous eating disorder that can be detrimental to self-esteem, social relationships and academic performance.
New fears, new feelings. A survey of more than 90,000 college students, 50 percent admitted to feeling depressed, and 93 percent reported feeling overwhelmed. The stress of school assignments and exams, paired with the pressure of social organizations like fraternities and sororities, can quickly become unmanageable. Because mental health issues are often dismissed as "normal" college life, it is important for students, parents and university faculty and staff to learn to recognize the warning signs of more serious troubles. When a student appears to be masking emotional problems with alcohol or drugs, or suffers from extended depression, he or she should be referred to the appropriate mental health offices for treatment. Research shows the most common occurrence of emotional disorders appears among young adults, ages 17 to 21.
New ideas, new hope. Recent studies revealing the biochemical basis of depression and other disorders have helped many students realize that mental health issues do not indicate personal failure, and should not cause shame. On-campus groups promoting mental health awareness are popping up at universities across the country, slowly stomping out the stigma of mental and emotional disorders and helping encourage students to seek help for their problems. A 2007 survey by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America showed 13 percent of all college students now use or have used on-campus mental health services. In fact, one institution reported a 29 percent increase in the use of counseling and psychological services over the last four years, and another reported that 40 percent of first-year students visit the counseling center at least once.
Being aware of and prepared for the mental health issues that often come with the territory for college freshmen can help foster an accepting environment among students, parents and university faculty and staff. By normalizing mental health issues, Dr. Dennis says students can feel comfortable seeking the help they need, leading to increased success and satisfaction in life, rather than suffering in silence and isolation. For additional information, visit www.timberlineknolls.com.
About Timberline Knolls
Located on 43 beautiful acres just outside of Chicago, Timberline Knolls offers a spiritually nurturing environment of recovery for women ages 12 and older who are struggling to overcome eating disorders, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders. For more information on Timberline Knolls and the services offered, visit www.timberlineknolls.com.