Mental health has long been a taboo topic in the United States and elsewhere. But as researchers are learning more and more about mental health disorders and outcomes, society as a whole is beginning to address mental health problems with more compassion and curiosity.
Many more people face mental health struggles than once thought, so mental health professionals and families have begun to realize that addressing these problems head-on and spreading awareness is one of the most important ways to mitigate them.
Though people of all ages experience mental health disorders and struggles, recent studies have focused on students in particular. The overall takeaway from statistics on student mental health is that students experience mental health issues much earlier and in larger numbers than anyone might expect.
In order to ensure students have enough mental health resources, it’s important to understand these statistics and how they are affecting students in the United States and around the world.
So, below are three shocking statistics on student mental health, along with some possible solutions for students who are experiencing struggles with their mental health and aren’t sure where to turn.
1. About 1 in 3 college freshmen reported having suffered from mental health disorders prior to attending college.
According to a 2018 World Health Organization survey, about one-third of students experience mental health disorders before they even arrive as freshmen in college. This means that students who are in their final years of high school are facing struggles with mental health.
So many studies focus on mental health among college students, yet it seems students need mental health initiatives sooner than college. In fact, helping students manage mental health struggles earlier in high school could potentially help mitigate the effects of mental health disorders as they enter college.
College can be a stressful experience, but in a society in which getting into the right college feels so important, the years leading up to college are stressful as well. High school students are under intense pressure to prepare for their futures earlier and earlier, as college becomes more competitive and increasingly expensive.
If you are a high school student experiencing mental health struggles, remember that you have resources. Speak to an adult you trust, like a parent, guardian, coach, or counselor. Consider taking a look at the NSHSS mental health awareness resource page, and remember: you are not alone.
2. 1 in 5 of college students reported having suicidal thoughts in 2018.
A 2018 Harvard Medical School study, which looked at over 67,000 college students from across more than 100 institutions, found that about 1 in 5 college students had reported having suicidal thoughts in the last year.
Of those students, 9 percent reported they had attempted suicide, and nearly 20 percent reported self-injury.
Students surveyed in the study reported suicidal thoughts as a result of a high-stress environment and increased feelings of anxiety, suggesting that college students are under a great deal of stress.
This statistic is especially alarming because it comes from 2018, two years prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which only increased the stress level on all people, college students included. As a result of pandemic-related stress, college students are likely dealing with increased anxiety.
Moreover, the study suggests that mental health issues increase among non-white student populations, and mental health struggles among these populations often go underreported.
So, it’s important for college students to know their resources. If you’re a college student and need help dealing with mental health struggles, your college or university should have mental health resources and counseling available.
Meanwhile, you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), talk to trusted adults, and seek professional mental health assistance when and if you need it.
3. 64% of college drop-outs cite a mental health-related reason for leaving college.
Finally, a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) survey found that 64% of students who had dropped out of college cited mental health as a reason for leaving. Furthermore, the same study notes that 45% of these students did not report their mental health struggles before deciding to leave college.
This statistic is shocking, since over half of students surveyed who left college did so as a result of mental health struggles, but many did not feel comfortable sharing those struggles with someone who might be able to help.
The stress of college life can be overwhelming, but if you are struggling, know that you can always seek help. Asking for assistance is not a sign of weakness, nor a sign that college is not right for you.
Hopefully, if you are a college student reading this article, you are seeing that struggling with mental health issues during college is common and that you are not alone in your experience. Find out how you can take care of your mental health at your college or university, whether through school-sanctioned resources or through outside assistance.
Sometimes, the first step to treating major mental health crises is to raise awareness about just how common and pervasive mental health issues are.
As these statistics show--and there are so many more not included in this article--students in both high school and college struggle with their mental health on a larger scale than some might realize.
It’s important for high schools and colleges to continue to inform students about their mental health resources and make sure students are being taken care of as they navigate these stressful times in life.
If you are a student who is struggling with mental health, remember that you can always seek help. Meanwhile, finding ways to cope with mental health struggles now will help you form healthy habits as you continue into adulthood.
You are not alone, and you matter.
Check out our Mental Health Awareness Resources page here.