Mental illness has an impact on the emotions, behaviours and social well being of anyone. Most Mental illnesses affect a person’s ability to function in social situations or activities. Two of the most common forms of mental illness we hear about in the present day is anxiety and depression. Millions of people struggle with anxiety and depression and it seems the percentage of people who are dealing with it are getting higher. Which raises the question: is mental illness an epidemic? Along with determining if mental illness is epidemic or not, there would be an analysis on the causes and effects of mental illness on college students and causes, whether grades K-12 and undergraduates should require mental health to be a part of their curriculum. Lastly, ways to cope and help yourself, friends and family.
When searching for the definition to define what is an epidemic, there are many different sources with variations of similar meaning. Oxford dictionary on google defines epidemic as “a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, well known for providing health information and prevention from dangerous health threats, in their article, “Identifying the Source of the Outbreak,” posits definitions to types of outbreaks. The CDC supports their claims by defining types of outbreaks by how they spread. The purpose is to make their reader’s aware of the types of outbreaks that exist and how to identify them with the established tone of formal and direct with their general audience. They define an epidemic as “an outbreak where there is a sudden increase in cases,” (CDC, 2020). While both definitions are similar they differ in description, as oxford implies it must be an infectious disease, and the CDC implies it is just the increase in cases.
Kirsten Weir, an author who specializes in health and psychology, published an article in the American Psychological Association, “The roots of mental illness. How much mental illness can the biology of the brain explain?” addresses a way to look at mental illness from a medical standpoint, understanding what function is affected. In the article, it says “All mental processes are brain processes, and therefore all disorders of mental functioning are biological diseases.” The brain is the affected function of mental disorders, like how heart disease affects the heart. There is a biological component to mental illness, over time it has been studied that mental disorders can be linked to genes and that abnormalities in the brain can increase the risk of other mental disorders (Weir, 2012). While mental illness can be passed through genes, it has not been found that mental illness is infectious or contagious. Based on the Oxford definition, mental illness is not an epidemic, but based on the CDC, mental illness is an epidemic.
Ronald W. Pies, a professor of psychiatry and bioethics at SUNY Upstate Medical University, published an article in 2016, “The Astonishing Non-epidemic of Mental illness,” addressing concerns of whether mental illness is an epidemic or not, establishing an argument that mental illness is not an epidemic. Pies presents his argument with a strict and formal tone. Ronald argued that the CDC definition, “applies to actual cases of disease-not to changing rates of diagnosis.” This means that the rates of mental illness fluctuate based on the reports of mental illness, there hasn’t been a drastic increase of reports, just a maintained number over the decade. However, times had changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Benjamin Miller, a Doctor of Psychology, shared his opinion on USA Today, “Mental illness is epidemic within the coronavirus pandemic,” suggesting that mental illness cases have been growing due to the pandmeic (Pies, 2016). Miller supports his suggestion with surveys done by Benenson Strategy Group and conducted interviews. Miller’s purpose is to share his opinion and raise awareness of the negative affects the pandemic has on people and calling for actions with more funding for mental health services and substance abuse, and that congress needs to do more about its services with just funding. Mental health was addressed with a sympathetic tone to a more concerned and alarming tone about how mental health cases are skyrocketing. Within weeks of the pandemic 55% of adults claimed the coronavirus has impacted their mental health, adding on to their stressors. Not only facing a new deadly disease, stressors of physical distance and isolation have negatively impacted 71% of people’s mental health (Weir, 2016). The pandemic has not only raised rates of diagnosis but has increased cases of mental illness. Ronald pies and Benjamin Miller both published articles about mental illness but with opposing views. Pie’s statement of mental illness not being an epidemic only applies to the past, as Miller’s argument is validated by present results of increased cases.
Figure 1 and figure 2 demonstrates the increase of mental illness cases from 2019 to 2021 from the coronavirus pandemic. Figure 1 from “2020 Takes Toll on Mental Health”, by Felic Richter, shows a breakdown between genders, political party and marital status. Figure 2 from “The implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use,” by Nirmita Panchal, shows the increase of depressive disorders reports from January of 2019 to January of 2021. Both graphs show the drastic increase in cases of mental illness, helping provide mental illness has become an epidemic in the U.S.
Figure 1. “2020 Takes Toll on Mental Health” by Richter, F. (2020, December 8). Infographic: 2020 takes Toll on Mental Health. Statista Infographics.
Figure 2. “ Average Share of Adults Reporting Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder and/or Depressive Disorder, January-June 2019 vs. January 2021” by Nirmita Panchal, R. K., & 2021, F. (2021, July 20). The implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use. KFF.
Mental health plays a huge role in college students life as they transition into a new role in their life with new responsibilities, as well as dealing with the stressors of being a college student. The effect of a negative mental health and mental illness has on students is detrimental. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center, an organization known for data on suicide, resources and program for help and prevention methods, addresses the effects of mental illness on college students. Their purpose is to provide statistical proof of how many students are dealing with certain illnesses, to be more aware of how mental illness affects students’ abilities, function and people. Their tone is analytical to their audience of students, parents and school educators. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center says having a negative mental health it affects many areas of students life’s including, “reducing their quality of life, academic achievement, physical health, and satisfaction with the college experience, and negatively impacting relationships with friends and family members.” All components of college students’ lives are affected, and future experiences are bound to be impacted as well, such as employment and salary income. Students’ ability to concentrate, performance and energy levels are hindered by mental illness, it was found that depression is linked with students dropping out or having a low grade average. In a survey conducted, it was found that 30% of students are stressed, 22% of students have anxiety, 20% with difficulties sleeping and 12% dealing with depression (SPRC). Not only are students’ social, health and emotional health affected but it impacts their financial situation as well, failing classes and dropping out of school causes them to lose and owe thousands of dollars to the school. To add on, “One study found that five percent of students do not finish their education due to psychiatric disorders and estimated that 4.29 million people would have graduated from college had they not been experiencing such disorders,” (SPRC). Mental health and mental illness is a huge factor college students have to face that impacts their entire life.
In order to understand why so many college students are suffering with mental illness, we have to look at the causes. In the Published manuscript, College Students: Mental Health Problems and Treatment Considerations 2014, Paola Pedrelli, Maren Nyer, Albert Yeung, Courtney Zulauf, and Timothy Wilens, from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, asserts that there are 2 groups of college students, traditional and non-traditional, facing different stressors and suggests treatments for both groups of students and what type of treatment they would need. They back up this claim by doing the following, first they explained what traditional and non-traditional students are. Traditional students are those who finish high school, starting college and are financially dependent on their parents. Non-traditional students tend to be older, already working, in relationships leading to marriage or have a family. Next they differentiate the stressors each group is possibly facing and then in-depth studies on the types of illness they are facing, substance and drug abuse and the effects on certain age groups. Lastly, they present the type of treatment and involvement traditional students would need, and a treatment that would work best for non-traditional students. Pedrelli and her team writes this in hopes of shedding light on the different kinds of stressors students faces and how many are suffering, in order to prove to school how bad students are suffering and that they consider different options of helps for non-traditional students and parental involvement for traditional students who are young adults trying to figure out their lives. This published manuscript explains that traditionals students are financially dependent on their parents, therefore their stressors are academic related, like the amount of work they have to do and having to deal with adult responsibilities without having mastered skills and the mindset of adult maturity, like fishes swimming with sharks (Pedrelli, 2015). Non-traditional students are typically older, working and have families, so their stressors are being able to work and provide for their families while completing school, dealing with multiple responsibilities.
The Light Program’s article, “The Mental Health Crisis Among College Students and What We Can Do About It” published on July 22, 2020, addresses the topic of mental illness among college students and explains the possible causes of negative mental health. They provide reasons for certain causes and how it affects students, followed by steps to address the causes. The light program adopts a sympathetic and formal tone for the audience, readers of The Light Program and others interested in the topic of mental health of college students. Students feeling pressure to do well academically and to succeed in their career path feeds anxiety, leading to coping mechanisms such as procrastination. There are also financial stresses, being able to afford college, many need to take out loans and struggle to pay it back later. Another cause of negative mental health is students not knowing what they want to do for their future and feeling the pressure to make a decision, increasing anxiety where they aren’t given enough time to decide. Lastly, social media plays a big role in students life, especially traditional students, as that’s where they spend most of their free time, they are often left comparing themselves to others online and face cyberbullying (The Light Program, 2020). Both Pedrelli’s team and The Light Program articles inform their audience of causes of negative mental health among college students, financial issues, struggles of academic balance, managing responsibilities and maintaining a social life.
Grades kindergarten through twelfth grade along with undergraduates should require mental health to be within their curriculum. National Alliance on Mental Illness’s article, “Mental Health in Schools,” addresses how mental health in kindergarten through twelfth grade curriculum impacts how they develop. They first establish the ages mental illness signs begin to exhibit. Secondly the barriers these students face and how school is very influential in students life. Lastly, they address the consequences of not treating mental health early versus how they develop with early treatment. The information presented sways their audience of educators, to adding mental health in schools curriculum of how beneficial they are to students growth. It states, “One in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year, and half of all mental health conditions begin by age 14” (NAMI). Students within these ages spend the majority of their time in school, where having teachers and trained professionals who spend most of their time around them could recognize the signs and help provide treatment as soon as possible. School is also a connection for students for services they need. Having a mental health based school, can connect students and their families to the help they need, especially to families who aren’t able to afford these services. Early treatment can reduce the amount of students dropping out of school, reduced suicide rates and help put students on the right track in school and in accomplishing life goals (NAMI). Although, in the article it is not stated for college students, the services for mental health and having professionals recognizing the warning signs and reaching out to students can greatly benefit how undergraduate students manage their academic life and continue in college.
Sometimes it is hard to tell if someone is struggling or dealing with a mental illness, not all of us are experts on identifying what someone’s struggling with, especially during the pandemic. During this difficult time, the world is under isolation and restriction because of how contagious Covid-19 is, people are no longer able to meet up outside or hangout, which puts a strain on communication. The best we can all do for our friends and family is to reach and offer an ear and be there for them when they need you by call or text, using the technology that is available around us. The Mental Health Foundation published an article, “How to support someone with a mental health problem,” it addresses that people can’t always tell whether something is wrong with friends and family and list ways how their audience can be there for their family and peers. One step is to set time aside to talk with the person and express your concern for them. Let them know that you care and worry about them and that they can open up to you, this can be done by a quick call or leaving a voice message. The next step is to ask open ended questions they can respond and express themselves through. Allow the person to share as much or little information as they want, don’t be pushy and don’t be judgemental. Being open and understanding is the best you can do to support your peers (The Mental Health Foundation, 2020). One very important step is to be a good listener, listen to their concerns and troubles they express to you, one of the best ways to help someone is to let them know they are being heard and listen to, and maybe offer professional help and ways to get help. The thing people can do for one another is to stay connected, that one source of communication with another human being to relate your stressors to can help ease the burdens they could be feeling and feel more connected.
CDC. (2020, July 1). Identifying the source of the outbreak. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/about-epidemiology/identifying-source-outbreak.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fcases-updates%2Fabout-epidemiology%2Fidentifying-source-outbreak.html.
How to support someone with a mental health problem. Mental Health Foundation. (2020, November 13). Retrieved November 11, 2021, from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/supporting-someone-mental-health-problem.Mental health in schools. NAMI. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2021, from https://www.nami.org/Advocacy/Policy-Priorities/Improving-Health/Mental-Health-in-Schools.
Miller, B. F. (2020, April 8). Mental illness is epidemic within the coronavirus pandemic. USA Today. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/04/08/mental-health-our-epidemic-within-coronavirus-pandemic-column/2939511001/.
Nirmita Panchal, R. K., & 2021, F. (2021, July 20). The implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use. KFF. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/.
Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2015). College Students: Mental Health Problems and Treatment Considerations. Academic psychiatry : the journal of the American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training and the Association for Academic Psychiatry, 39(5), 503–511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9
Pies, R. W. (2016, November 1). The astonishing non-epidemic of mental illness. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/astonishing-non-epidemic-mental-illness.
Richter, F. (2020, December 8). Infographic: 2020 takes Toll on Mental Health. Statista Infographics. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from Weir, K. (2012, June). The roots of mental illness. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/roots.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (n.d.). Consequences of student mental health issues. Consequences of Student Mental Health Issues . Retrieved November 11, 2021, from https://www.sprc.org/colleges-universities/consequences. https://www.statista.com/chart/23707/mental-health-survey-in-america/.
The Light Program. (2020, November 17). The College Student Mental Health Crisis. The Light Program. Retrieved November 11, 2021, from https://thelightprogram.pyramidhealthcarepa.com/the-college-student-mental-health-crisis/.
Weir, K. (2012, June). The roots of mental illness. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/roots.
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Many college students experience symptoms of a serious mental health condition. Depression and anxiety are common mental health conditions among students.Why mental health problems are very common among college students? ›
Entering college can trigger mental health disorders
Even if someone doesn't develop a formal disorder, they might still struggle. It's difficult to navigate the stress of the transition to college. An overwhelming workload, unfamiliar environment, and other stressors can lead to a mental health crisis.
College students commonly experience stress because of increased responsibilities, a lack of good time management, changes in eating and sleeping habits, and not taking enough breaks for self-care. Transitioning to college can be a source of stress for most first-year students.What percentage of university students have mental health issues? ›
Up to 44% of college students reported having symptoms of depression and anxiety.What is the #1 mental health issue impacting college students? ›
Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health disorder among college students. It can take several forms, including obsessive-compulsive disorders, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. The condition can have a serious impact on one's health, affecting academic performance and interfering with social interaction.What are the three common mental health issues among student? ›
This could imply that, university students are likely to experience depression, anxiety, frustration and troubles sleeping among other mental health issues due to stress associated with their academic lives [14, 23, 25].How are college students affected by mental health? ›
Mental health problems can affect a student's energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism, hindering performance. Research suggests that depression is associated with lower grade point averages, and that co-occurring depression and anxiety can increase this association.What are the trends in mental health among college students? ›
Depression among students is less prevalent, panelists said, but more students are reporting anxiety and stress. Academic stress, likely the result of learning challenges and other difficulties caused by the pandemic, is on the rise. Van Orman said that COVID-19 triggered “a mental health crisis on top of a crisis.”What are the factors affecting the mental health of the students? ›
Stress, life events, past experiences and genet- ics all play a part in determining our mental health. Student life exposes in- dividuals to risk factors affecting mental health including financial worries, periods of transition, substance use, parental pressure, culture shock and disconnection from previous supports.What are 3 major causes of stress among students? ›
- returning to study.
- pressure of combining paid work and study.
- difficulty in organising work.
- poor time management.
- leaving assignments to the last minute.
- out of control debts.
- Social anxiety, general anxiety, test anxiety, or panic attacks.
- Family expectations or problems.
- Depression, lack of energy or motivation, hopelessness, being overwhelmed, low self-esteem, homesickness, loneliness.
For teens, the most commonly reported sources of stress are school (83%), getting into a good college or deciding what to do after high school (69%), and financial concerns for their family (65%).How many college students in the US suffer from mental illness? ›
During the 2020–2021 school year, more than 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem, according to the Healthy Minds Study, which collects data from 373 campuses nationwide (Lipson, S. K., et al., Journal of Affective Disorders, Vol.How many students in the US suffer from mental illness? ›
Mental health illness rates were significantly higher for adolescents (about 50%) and young adults (about 30%). Anxiety disorders are the highest reported mental health issue in the U.S. with 42.5 million Americans suffering from this illness.How many students in the US have mental health issues? ›
Three in five (60%) college students reported being diagnosed with a mental health condition by a professional, the most common afflictions being anxiety and depression, according to an exclusive Fortune survey of 1,000 college students conducted by The Harris Poll in June.What is the leading cause of depression in college students? ›
A lack of sleep, poor eating habits, and not enough exercise are a recipe for depression among college students. The stress that comes with academia — including financial worries, pressure to get a good job after school, and failed relationships — is enough to force some students to leave college or worse.What are the mental problems students face? ›
Anxiety and Depression- Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health disorders in students. Students with anxiety may have low attendance, struggle to finish their work, show declining academic performance, fear new experiences, or worry excessively about assignments, homework and grades.What should be done about the mental health crisis among college students? ›
- Take care of health and well-being.
- Effectively manage time.
- Keep track of mental health concerns.
- Surround yourself with good people (even if it's virtually)
- Practice mindfulness.
- Avoid drug and alcohol use.
- Find ways to get involved.
- Utilize mental health services.
Low school connectedness increases the risk (e5) for depressive symptoms, anxiety, violence, and bullying/mobbing whereas high school connectedness reduces that risk. A close social bond with fellow students further reduces the risk of developing mental health problems.What can colleges do to improve students mental health? ›
Overall, most experts say it will likely take a multi-pronged approach to address the crisis: long-term training and educating a new generation of therapists, more clinical and non-clinical resources, and a more holistic approach to mental wellness. Students and parents may also need to adjust their expectations.
- Addiction and Substance Use Disorders.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD)
- Anxiety Disorders.
- Bipolar Disorder.
- Eating Disorders.
- Depression / Suicide.
- Sleeping Issues and Disorders.
The mental health of students can affect their education, social life, and emotional well-being. Students struggling with their mental health may experience greater challenges throughout school and adulthood, while those not struggling may have a greater zest for their education, social experiences, and more.Are universities causing anxiety and mental problems to students? ›
From the results, it showed that students who were in their first and second academic year exhibited a risk of anxiety 3.06 times more (OR = 3.06; 95% CI = 1.43–6.51) while students who were in their third and fourth academic year showed a risk of anxiety 2.95 times more (OR = 2.95; 95% CI = 1.35–6.47) as compared to ...What are the top 3 biggest stressors? ›
- Death of a loved one.
- Major illness or injury.
- Job loss.
- Time stress.
- Anticipatory stress.
- Situational stress.
- Encounter stress.
- Children Living in Conflict Zones. ...
- Unprecedented Global Hunger. ...
- Two Years of Disrupted Education. ...
- Climate Change. ...
- Children Crossing Borders. ...
- Child Mortality Due to COVID-19.
College students are facing enormous challenges related to the pandemic, including feelings of isolation, an excess of free time, and unreliable internet connections. Learning during a pandemic is a unique experience to say the least.What are three common issues that students at your college or university face? ›
- Time Management. ...
- Debt. ...
- Too Much on Your Plate. ...
- Stress and Depression. ...
- Independence. ...
- Health. ...
- Relationships. ...
- Academic Decisions.
Overall, 88 percent of college students reported their school life to be stressful. Education and medical majors reported the highest levels of stress, though, followed by psychology, arts, and the sciences. The biggest stressor for students was exams (89 percent). Financial issues weren't too far behind, though.Which country has the most stressed students? ›
|Rank||City, Country||Stress Score /10|
- School demands and frustrations.
- Negative thoughts or feelings about themselves.
- Changes in their bodies.
- Problems with friends and/or peers at school.
- Unsafe living environment/neighborhood.
- Separation or divorce of parents.
- Chronic illness or severe problems in the family.
Roughly 12% of college students report the occurrence of suicide ideation during their first four years in college, with 2.6% percent reporting persistent suicide ideation.What percentage of the world's mental disorder is 2022? ›
19.86% of adults are experiencing a mental illness.What is the leading mental illness in America? ›
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder. Meanwhile, approximately 7% of children aged 3-17 experience issues with anxiety each year. Most people develop symptoms before age 21.What are the main causes of mental illness in youth? ›
Physical, emotional and social changes, including exposure to poverty, abuse, or violence, can make adolescents vulnerable to mental health problems.How has the pandemic affected students mental health? ›
“20% of college students say their mental health has worsened…” Read more. “Nearly three in 10 (29%) say their child is “already experiencing harm” to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures.Is mental illness increasing in the US? ›
Nationwide, almost one in five people (47.1 million) in the U.S. are living with a mental health condition. That number increased by about 1.5 million over last year's report. About 10% of youth in the U.S have severe depression.Does the US have more mental illness than the rest of the world? ›
Nearly half of U.S. adults who experience emotional distress report such worries, a higher share than seen in other countries. The United States has some of the worst mental health–related outcomes, including the highest suicide rate and second-highest drug-related death rate.Is mental health declining in the US? ›
People often compare the lasting impacts of COVID-19 to other natural disasters, so it is absolutely true that we have had a decline in mental health.How common is mental health in students? ›
Common mental health problems for students
According to recent research, 1 in 5 students has a diagnosed mental health problem. The following mental health problems are the most common among students.
- Anxiety disorders. ...
- Major depressive disorder. ...
- Bipolar disorder. ...
- Access Community Health Network (ACCESS)
Depression. Impacting an estimated 300 million people, depression is the most-common mental disorder and generally affects women more often than men.What are the top 5 most common mental disorders? ›
- Anxiety Disorders. The most common category of mental health disorders in America impacts approximately 40 million adults 18 and older. ...
- Mood Disorders. ...
- Psychotic Disorders. ...
- Dementia. ...
- Eating disorders.
Educational outcomes and mental health challenges
Wellbeing issues are often multifaceted for students and staff. Issues include family problems, financial difficulties, feelings of isolation, social pressures, anxiety, and studying stress.
Stressful life situations, such as financial problems, a loved one's death or a divorce. An ongoing (chronic) medical condition, such as diabetes. Brain damage as a result of a serious injury (traumatic brain injury), such as a violent blow to the head.What is the biggest mental illness in the world? ›
Depression. In 2019, 280 million people were living with depression, including 23 million children and adolescents (1). Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life.Who suffers most from mental illness? ›
Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80% and 90% percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment.Which group has the highest mental illness rate? ›
- Male: 37.4%
- Female: 51.2%
- Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual: 54.3%
- Non-Hispanic Asian: 20.8%
- Non-Hispanic white: 51.8%
- Non-Hispanic black or African-American: 37.1%
- Non-Hispanic mixed/multiracial: 43.0%
- Hispanic or Latino: 35.1%
Anxiety disorder is the most treatable of all mental illnesses. Anxiety disorder produces unrealistic fears, excessive worry, flashbacks from past trauma leading to easy startling, changes in sleep patterns, intense tension and ritualistic behavior.
A mental disorder shares the same qualities as a mental illness but is used in reference to the Mental Health Act to describe the particular symptoms a person has.What are the 7 major mental disorders? ›
- Anxiety Disorders.
- Mood Disorders.
- Psychotic Disorders.
- Eating Disorders.
- Personality Disorders.
Stress, anxiety, and depression are not uncommon among college students. Find out more about these topic and campus resources for these concerns.… The common cold, flu, and sore throats are common, yet irritating health issues that are very prevalent across college campuses.What factors affect mental health in college students? ›
They also included factors that related to mental health variables (family history, personal history and mental health literacy), pre-university factors (childhood trauma and parenting behaviour. University level factors including social isolation, adjustment and engagement with learning.