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Caring for mental health in college

The second most common cause of death among college students is suicide, and six percent of undergrads will contemplate suicide at some point during their four years of schooling. Additionally, the two most common psychological afflictions college-aged students struggle with are anxiety and depression.  

Steven B. Mayhew, director of university counseling services at PSU, said that knowing how to care for one’s mental health is extremely important in combatting anxiety and depression.  

“Just be healthy, you know don’t go crazy with alcohol and get regular sleep, but if you find that you’re feeling unwell then come in and see one of us here at the health center, it could be either one of us on the counseling side or the medical side, we work together all the time,” Mayhew said.  

There are multiple reasons students may experience depression. For freshmen, there may be several possible causes, such as being away from home for the first time, establishing a new social circle, adjusting to different sleep schedules, not eating enough, and not getting enough physical exercise. Other common causes are fluctuations in weather and changing seasons.  

“We know that the trend is that, in the spring particularly, you get into the month of late January early February, the weather isn’t usually very pleasant and people feel kind of cooped up and can feel sort of down if there happens to be some colds and flu going around … then you’ve got that and people just aren’t feeling all that good,” Mayhew said. “And certainly you can experience a diagnosed depression any time of the year, but I think if you looked at a large enough data set that you’ll find, at least in my experience of 32 years of practice, you know Christmas is over, there’s a little bit of a letdown, school’s starting back up and many students are kind of glad to get away from home and get back to their apartment or residence halls, and you know the first couple weeks might even be fine with classes and getting reconnected with friends they hadn’t seen since finals, and then it starts getting into very late January and February where it can feel pretty down.”  

A major factor in caring for one’s mental health is sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and a higher chance of suffering from anxiety or depression  

“Know what’s the right number of hours for you and that’s typically in the range of seven to nine which covers the vast majority of the human race, between seven and nine hours, and make it so that you can discipline yourself, so bedtime is the same time every night,” Mayhew said.  

Pitt State has several resources for students struggling with mental health, including the club To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) that frequently partners with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and hosts the Out of the Darkness Walk each spring to bring awareness to suicide prevention and the importance of mental health.  

“To Write Love On Her Arms is a nonprofit organization that was founded by someone who had attempted to take her life, obviously she was not successful and decided that there was a need for people to learn about suicide and depression and how it affects you and so she started To Write Love On Her Arms,” Shelby Simpson, senior in elementary education, said. “Our main focus is just creating awareness about depression and suicide and even anxiety and just things that Pitt State students or any college student really deals with on a daily basis, our main focus is suicide and depression and things like that, mental health.”  

In addition to TWLOHA, the Bryant Student Health Center on campus offers both medical and counseling services. Another source for help is the suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.  

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