Heading Off to College, but Battling Depression or Anxiety?

A study released in January of 2014, led by Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor, finds that today five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues compared with youth of the same age who were studied in the Great Depression era.

The college experience can be challenging for all young adults as they navigate through making new friends, achieving academic success, establishing their identity, learning to live independently and planning out their futures. And if you add the additional responsibility of managing a mental health condition, it can make these already challenging circumstances even more overwhelming.

Keep in mind that students living with mental health conditions can be and are successful in college with the right supports set up. The following are highlighted excerpts from a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) as reported by StrengthOfUs.org – listing key strategies to put into 3-Professor_Disstressedplace to help students succeed in college:

  • Build a Support Network. A large support network during college is crucial to combat feelings of isolation. Fortunately, there are many opportunities in college to connect with others, including joining study groups, befriending individuals with common interests and being matched up with upper-class mentors who can serve as role models and provide guidance. Surround yourself with peers who can “show the way” to succeeding in college.
  • Set Goals.It’s important to focus on one goal at a time and to create a plan that includes clear expectations and a realistic timeline. You may need to work with a life coach to reduce any feelings of being overwhelmed in college and to identify what it will take to achieve a specific goal and how to prepare accordingly. A coach can also help you develop social skills and learn how to handle numerous social interactions that are important to succeeding in college and life afterwards.
  • Create Structure.Establishing a daily schedule of supportive activities, including homework, studying, social outings and a workout routine, can help you reduce stress and accomplish academic and personal goals. Consider opting for early classes, which help create structure and give you a reason to start your day. Volunteering or interning in an area that interests you is also a great way to create structure. These activities provide opportunities for you to make additional connections, build positive experiences and try out careers. It’s great to write all of your daily activities into a daily planner so you can budget your time accordingly.
  • Build Upon Strengths. When opportunities for success are not built into your life, you may start to feel disempowered. To prevent this, you can search online before school starts to identify opportunities to become involved on campus in ways that use your strengths. Having these opportunities in place enables you to feel confident and successful.


Before the school year starts, it’s important to explore various resources to determine what supports are the best match for you; one size does not fit all for students with mental health conditions.

Finally, don’t be overly discouraged with setbacks. We all have them in life. The important thing is when they happen, accept it and then work to get your life back on track. College provides an environment conducive to self-discovery and boundless success; it is critical that you seek the right supports that build on your strengths so you can enjoy the college years and look forward to a successful and productive life.

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