The most challenging problems in life aren’t always the ones that are the most difficult to solve. Sometimes they are the ones that are the most difficult to identify.
This often seems to be the case when it comes to mental health. The problem, in many cases, is figuring out if there’s really a problem.
We don’t always know, for instance, when feeling down about life crosses over from a typical and temporary mood to out-and-out depression. Or our struggles might be plain to others around us, but we are living in denial (which, as the old joke goes, ain’t just a river in Egypt).
It doesn’t help that we tend to associate mental health with problems, not wellness, or that we associate those problems with the most extreme conditions. If we aren’t constantly having conversations with ourselves or regularly howling at the moon, we assume we’re fine. And if we are constantly having conversations with ourselves or regularly howling at the moon, we probably still think we’re fine.
In reality, most of us are fine. And we’re also not fine.
Life has never been easy, but college students today definitely face pressures that are unique to the times. In addition to traditional challenges like juggling heavy coursework, learning to live independently, handling personal relationship issues, and the impending need for a full-time job, there also are economic strains, heightened stress regarding social injustice issues, geo-political fears, mass violence, and the isolation that can come from attachments to technology. And, oh yeah, there’s the fallout from the pandemic.
These pressures have led to some sobering statistics. One study found that more than 60% of college students in 2020-21 met the criteria for at least one mental health problem and another found that almost 75% of students reported moderate or severe psychological distress.
But no one need find themselves in severe distress before taking steps to address their mental health.
So if you are coping well with the challenges of life, how do you continue to make mental wellness a priority? A proactive approach to rest, diet, exercise, and conversations with people you trust are a good place to start, according to the National Library of Medicine.
And if those challenges are getting to you, how do you recognize it early and what do you do about it?
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to the common dilemma that comes when we wonder if the emotions we are experiencing are “normal” or signals of a more significant mental health challenge: Ask.
Websites like mentalhealth.gov or the mayoclinichealthsystem.org offer checklists for early warning signs of mental health issues and tips for coping with challenges. But here are some other resources that are available to University of Arkansas students:
- CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) is available 24 hours a day at 479-575-5276. CAPS also provides walk-in services Monday-Friday at the Pat Walker Health Center.
- Students can find resources through U of A Cares.
- Students can use the Crisis Text Line to speak to someone off campus (Text: HOME to 741741).
- Students with a concern about a friend, roommate or classmate can file a confidential report at report.uark.edu, and university staff can offer support and assistance.