Mental Health and Higher Education

did you know

Bet you didn’t know that you may have mental health issues.

Well you could, that is 80% of higher education students are mentally ill (Smith, 2016).

Surprised

Well have you been yelling or fighting with family and friends, having unexplained aches and pains, feeling helpless or hopeless, smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual, feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared and even thinking about harming yourself or others? (Smith, 2016).

MentalAccording to the psychologist, your mental wellbeing is questionable. Today’s young adults in higher education, increasingly need adequate mental health support and services. There is an increasing need for such services mainly because of the level of stress and emotional difficulties that come with studying at a post-secondary institution. Going to university is never easy. Therefore, this discussion will look at what is mental health, signs associated with the disorder, causes of mental disorder in higher education students, students’ academic performance and mental health services available at higher education institutions.

University students are one of the most sensitive strata of society, many of whom will become the future’s managers and planners, and the mental health of the society is contingent upon their mental health. One of the characteristics of a normal personality is having full mental health (Bostani, Nadri, & Nasab, 2014). It is said that one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness. (National Alliance on Mental Illness , 2015)

Wow!!!!!! Am I one in four?

wowSo, I decided to read deeper on the topic. This is what I found, mental health is a state of emotional, psychological, and social well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community (WHO, 2014). I exhaled! So, let’s find out if you the reader is. Depression, anxiety and stress are mental disorders that affect college students on a daily basis and majority of these students suffer from both depression and anxiety. A student who suffers from clinical depression will experience feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, decreased energy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions and difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping daily.

Can you imagine a student who also become easily irritable and has difficulty concentrating or having their minds go blank?

head

A survey conducted in 2009 suggested that 85% of college students reported experiencing stress daily (University of Florida, 2016).  Please note that the contributors to stress are academic demands, financial responsibilities and social pressures and expectations.

 

About one in 10 higher education students have experienced “suicidal thoughts”, according to a survey on mental health carried out at universities in the UK (Grove, 2013). In UK universities, more than a quarter of students (27%) report having a mental health problem of one type or another (Aronin & Smith, 2016). More than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year. Freshmen accounted for more than one-third of undergraduate deaths with 40% due to suicide, and half of all deaths were due to falls from windows, balconies, and rooftops usually related to drug and alcohol abuse (Hernandez, 2006).

This is unbelievable, I could be walking past, sitting beside one of those persons. Why are higher education students suffering from this illness?

Struggling

College students have difficulty adapting to college life, competing, and handling their new-found freedom with minimal adult supervision. As they transition from high school to college, anxiety increases as they leave behind the support of family, friends, and familiar surroundings which may place them at risk for academic, personal, and social difficulties. (Hernandez, 2006). They are also coping with academic pressure and others are dealing with numerous work and family responsibilities.

Mental illnesses may interfere with post-secondary student’s ability to function at a tertiary institution. It can affect students’ ability to attend classes, focus on academic material, and learn effectively, which may lead to a decline in academic performance, that may discourage students and add to their mental vulnerability. Mental disorders may hinder motivation and/or induce feelings of discouragement and hopelessness  (University of Florida, 2016), for example, depression is a significant predictor of lower GPA and higher probability of dropping out, even after controlling for symptoms of anxiety and eating disorders, prior academic performance, and other covariates (Eisenberg & Ezra Golberstein, 2009).

i cant.jpg

Almost 73 percent of students living with a mental health condition experienced a mental health crisis on campus (National Alliance on Mental Illness , 2015). At higher education institution, the state of mental health is a growing crisis. Unfortunately, many college campuses are not equipped to offer adequate services to students with mental health issues. According to the National Mental Health Association (2010), consistent access to mental health intervention eludes many college students. Lack of financial resources, the difficulty of service delivery, stigmatization, and societal misconceptions of the mentally ill have been cited as reasons for the mental health services deficiency present in many college counseling centers (National Mental Health Association, 2010).  However, it is recorded that in general, post-secondary students are not seeking help, although in some colleges it is available. 40 percent of students with diagnosable mental health conditions did not seek help (National Alliance on Mental Illness , 2015). The number one reason for them not asking for help is the stigma that goes with it, although they are aware of the mental health services their university provides. Three-quarters of students were aware of counseling service provided by the institution.

SLB

The number of college students with mental disorders has increased and therefore calls into question not only their mental health, but its impact on higher education as it relates to policies that address incidences of violence, aggression, suicide, and disruptive behavior  are the higher education institution putting in place programmes or services to eliminate or lessen the occurrences of these mental health issues on their campuses (Hernandez, 2006). A programme that helps to prevent Suicide, training Peers to be able to identify the sign of mental illness and have the technique to defuse and help the student and distribute mental health information during, orientation, campus-wide events (carnival) are a good way to help those students suffering from this disorder.

From research done significant relations were found between educational performance and mental health and some of its components, such as depression and anxiety. Students with better mental health status have a better educational performance.

what do you think

Should these students attend higher education institutions?

If the institution does not take them in, will they have the cohort to hold classes.

Do all of us has a few mental health issues.?

Are lecturers immune?

Food for thought.

thHKAIL7FX

Are we all crazy!!!!!!!!!!

crazy

 

References
Aronin, S., & Smith, M. (2016, August 8). One in four students suffer from mental health problems. Retrieved from YouGov Website: https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/08/09/quarter-britains-students-are-afflicted-mental-hea/

Bostani, M., Nadri, A., & Nasab, A. R. (2014, February 21). A Study of the Relation between Mental health and Academic Performance of Students of the Islamic Azad University Ahvaz Branch. Science Direct, 116, 163-165.

Eisenberg, D., & Ezra Golberstein, J. H. (2009, September). 11. B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 9(1).

Grove, J. (2013, May 20). Students’ mental health problems highlighted. Retrieved from The World University Ranking Website: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/students-mental-health-problems-highlighted/2003957.article

Hernandez, N. E. (2006, November 17-18). The Mental Health of College Students: Challenges, Obstacles, and Solutions . Retrieved from New York Univerity Faculty Resource Website: https://www.nyu.edu/frn/publications/millennial.student/Mental-Health-Hernandez.html

National Alliance on Mental Illness . (2015, January). College Student Mental Health Statistics. Retrieved from Chadron State College Website: http://www.csc.edu/bit/resources/statistics/

Smith, J. (2016, March 2). Student mental health: a new model for universities . Retrieved from The Hugher Education Network: The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2016/mar/02/student-mental-health-a-new-model-for-universities

University of Florida. (2016, September). Understanding Mental Health and Academics. Retrieved from University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center Website: http://www.counseling.ufl.edu/cwc/understanding-mental-health-and-academics

WHO. (2014, August 31). Mental health: a state of well-being. Retrieved from World Health Organization Website: http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/

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Mental Health and Higher Education

10 thoughts on “Mental Health and Higher Education

  1. shenzhem says:

    A very relevant topic Judz. The issue of mental health and higher education is of relevance as even our own Caribbean students experience these illnesses (as identified in blog). For example Lipps, Lowe and Young (2007) stated that “there are several factors which may place Jamaican university students at an increased risk for depression.”

    The UWI has supporting units for students with psychological issues, for example, the Health Centre provides this service. However, how many of our students are aware of this? Do they use the service?

    HEIs would certainly have to be mindful of these illnesses. On the halls of residences, resident advisors observe these students to see if anything odd has been taken place such as substance abuse etc, and report these cases or intervene. However, it would be difficult to monitor commuting students with similar issues. For example, Whitehorne-Smith, Mitchell, Abel and Harrison (2015), conducted a study on substance abuse and found that out of “a total of 380 students (78 males, 302 females) participated in the study; 115 (30.3%) reported a past year prevalence of psychoactive substance use.”

    Students experience various issues on a daily basis, these students include working class persons as well, which comes with a plethora of other issues – working full time and studying. Therefore, it is important for the campus community to develop programmes that engage students and staff so as to reduce the pressures of higher education. Hence the importance of having students engaged in co-curricula activities clubs and sports, gym etc. Likewise staff, at the UWI aerobics classes are offered for staff once per week but there is no designated gym for staff.

    Mental health, the hidden side of university life.

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  2. Interesting. makes you really stop to think…is the person beside me suffering from mental illness? Am I suffering from mental illness? Good topic, one that we take for granted.

    Shenzem, you are correct in regards to the Health Centre. It is quite relevant and yes, students do know the services offered, especially nears exams. There is also a booth on research day plus when there is orientation there is a booth. However you have a point because who informs the person who is too busy to come to these free sessions? Their email I guess… but it really begs the question as to who knows or who doesn’t?

    I remember in undergrad we had such an upsurge of students with mental health issues…

    It is between our health centre and the University Hospital of the West Indies who collaborated… yes its a side that we do not talk about much, but like everywhere its here.
    Shenzhem studying is rough and we need to be in the know. But persons can not sit around and expect to get everything on their lap. We know our body adn mind. Once you feel something CARE to SHARE. It helps.

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  3. tanneice says:

    To answer your first question Realchez …. yes, that person may be me. I have come to accept that I have some degree of madness (note I did not say mental illness).

    If I am not mistaken it was Prof. Hickling who said that we are all mad, just to varying degrees.

    One of the things that scare me is not being able to properly identify when a student or staff is showing signs of ‘something not right’. The signs are not always obvious, because mental illness does not always presents itself in the stereotypes we tend quickly to think of.

    Where I work (I will not mention the name, to protect my organization identity…smile) we have had a number of cases of mental illness among our students, some still visit the facilities from time to time being fully convinced that they are ‘moony from the moon’…. if you get what I mean. What is interesting is that in most cases the students who end up with needing medical attention to deal with mental illnesses are the ones who were doing exceptionally well. ‘A’ students! Some members of faculty have had to drive students in different state of mind to the health centre or Ward 21 of the hospital (well, after going through accident and emergency).

    There was a period not so long ago that the ‘flare up’ of mental issues among students seemed to have been so great that the Health Centre in collaboration with HR, organised some workshops to assist staff who dealt with student issues to be able to pick up on signs (red flags as they are called) – that may signal the need for help. We may need to get back there and institutionalize these types of basic training. Cook & Solomon (2014) made the the following recommendation – have more than one staff person available to deliver mobile support. A second recommendation for enhancing the efficacy of supported education services is to conduct in-service training and liaison activities with post-secondary faculty.

    Then, while I do not want to go to the position of ‘fear’….I think if we look at how some students have dealt with their ‘overload’ / mental illness – we should also be talking about how mental illness can put the community at risk – personal safety! We (where I work) have had threats and accusation of us ‘doing things to the students, who came to us good, good….and now have to be under tight strap”. Shootings in higher education – linked to student / students with mental illnesses is not far from becoming a reality in our beloved higher education institutions…..but that is not what this blog is about.

    Another matter is, as one research found, getting our faculty and staff comfortable with to certain type of mental illnesses is a challenge. The research I am referring to was done by Cook and Solomon (2014) and it states that there is evidence that faculty are reluctant to include persons with mental illness in their classes, believing that they will be disruptive or too functionally impaired to benefit from learning (Brill, 1987; Amada, 1986). Moreover, there are concerns that the level of stress accompanying post-secondary education will reactivate the illnesses of some students without appropriate supports (Hutchinson, Kohn, 8c,Unger, 1989).

    So, I can see why we would be asking, should persons with mental illness be in Higher Educational institutions – but we could ask this question of any level of our education system. This is not necessarily only the cases of severe mental illness that makes a person dysfunctional or disruptive that we are talking about, but if they are not allowed on the grounds of their mental illness – whatever state that illness may be – wouldn’t that be discrimination?

    Maybe what Cook & Solomon (2014) suggested in their conclusion be considered – future efforts of psychosocial rehabilitation programs to facilitate effective partnerships between students and their instructors. The forging of such partnerships can then contribute to the mutual benefit and satisfaction of both parties in the pursuit of knowledge and self-actualization.

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  4. wkeisha says:

    Judith, this article was an real eye-opener.

    The World Health Organization (2017) defines mental health as “as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Positive mental health means that one is devoid of any mental illness.

    Mental illnesses, on the other hand, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2010) “are real and involve disturbances of thought, experience, and emotion serious enough to cause functional impairment in people, making it more difficult for them to sustain interpersonal relationships and carry on their jobs, and sometimes leading to self-destructive behavior and even suicide.”

    But, if 80% of the students in higher education are mentally ill and most are succeeding in their studies, it is safe to say that mental ill-health is not a valid reason to exclude anyone from accessing tertiary education. The fact is, students who are cognizant of their problems oftentimes seek help to address it and more importantly, tertiary institutions now provide the facilities to aid students who are not able to cope on their own. For those who fail to recognize their deficiencies, it is hoped that faculties or administrators within higher education are trained to recognize students in need of intervention. Counselling – peer and professional – is now a feature of every university/college campus, so is chaplaincy. Universities provide these services to both students and staff.

    The statistics in the article are grim but I do not believe they are reflective of the Jamaican experience.

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  5. shanique101 says:

    Haha @ Tanneice’s Hickling joke….

    Fret not thyself Tanneice, you are not alone. I have always said that I am a mad woman who wears clean clothes.

    Mental health issues, particularly in higher education is often overlooked or mocked. We all know of at least one person who was brilliant and destined for greatness then all of a sudden or should I say “bups” that person gets ‘mad’ and society jeers by saying is “university mad him/her”? True, right?

    Mental illness is an invisible and silent disease that most of us in higher education suffer from. It is a touchy topic and I often want to push it under the carpet because it hits me to the core. Sometimes, we walk around with the burdens but we wear the mask that the poet Paul Dunbar speaks about with hopes that no one will recognize our facades. Truth is, we need to talk more about good and bad mental practices and not ostracize those who suffer.

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  6. I think one of the biggest issues that contribute to why persons do not go to a mental health facility is because they are not often aware that what they are experiencing is a mental disorder or illness. Therefore, public education needs to provide students with the information about what may be possible symptoms of mental disorders so that they can be more self aware.

    I also think that while universities (or atleast UWI) may have facilities and services in place to help students with the mental issues they may experience, there needs to be a drive to incorporate the staff and faculty members and educate them on ways that they may also help to reduce the stressors that contribute to students’ mental issues. For example, if some lecturers were more kind and accommodating, students may feel less stressed. If service staff created a more pleasant environment, students may be less frustrated. Therefore they would not add to the already high level of stress students may experience and may instead help students to distress.

    Maybe higher ed institutions need to invest in programmes that help to promote good mental health also. It is not enough to have a facility that helps students when they already have issues. A step further needs to be taken where prevention is the main focus instead of curing or treating. therefore students would be able to learn of and adopt lifestyle habits that would help to prevent them from becoming mentally ill.

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  7. Lotoya Bond says:

    Mental health issue is a very serious problem that is affecting some of our students who are attending Universities today. Students who are having this problem are easily frustrated and they always complain that they are stress. We all know that stresses and studying don’t work well together. Some students who are suffering from mental health issues are great pretenders, they keep it as a secret not knowing that they are creating more problems on themselves. It is time for students who are affected with this issue to free up themselves. They need to step out of the box and seek help because help is out there for them.

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  8. patknightletts says:

    Smith (2016) proposes that as much as 80% of students in higher education may be suffering some kind of mental health issues. One of the characteristics of a normal personality is having full mental health (Bostani, Nadri, & Nasab, 2014). It is said that one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness. (National Alliance on Mental Illness , 2015). In order to fully grasp the situation it is necessary to have a working definition or description of specifically what mental health. To this end, the World Health Organisation declared that mental health is a state of emotional, psychological, and social well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community (WHO, 2014).
    This is a truly frightening phenomenon as described and declared by the reading. A survey conducted in 2009 suggested that 85% of college students reported experiencing stress daily (University of Florida, 2016). To further complicate this, about one in 10 higher education students have experienced “suicidal thoughts”, according to a survey on mental health carried out at universities in the UK (Grove, 2013). In UK universities, more than a quarter of students (27%) report having a mental health problem of one type or another (Aronin & Smith, 2016). More than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year. Freshmen accounted for more than one-third of undergraduate deaths with 40% due to suicide, and half of all deaths were due to falls from windows, balconies, and rooftops usually related to drug and alcohol abuse (Hernandez, 2006). We fully understand that the status of affairs within each of the countries mentioned in terms of their economy, business and university environments are different and hence, may affect students resident there in different ways. Nonetheless based on the figures, this nonetheless seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. Bearing in mind also that more women are entering tertiary learning institutions, this seems to point to a corresponding ratio of these conditions as far as females to males, worldwide. Another angle from which this needs to be viewed is that research has shown significant relations were found between educational performance and mental health and some of its components, such as depression and anxiety. Students with better mental health status have a better educational performance. This seems to be yet another ‘catch twenty-two’ situation as it is the learning environments with the accompanying stresses which are causing mental issues, however at the same time, the students who are better able to manage this stress are performing better than those who do not.

    Insofar as Jamaica is concerned, there are very serious lessons that can be learned from these worldwide figures. Bearing in mind that Jamaica is ranked among the top countries worldwide with approximately a 60% ratio of female to male managers, is this saying something to us?

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  9. Wow! This topic is food for thought – the issue of mental health and higher education. Though I found the research quite alarming, I should not be surprised based on a conversation I once had with a psychologist who said that there are over four (400) hundred degrees of madness and each individual is affected by one or more. So yes Tanneice and Realchez everyone has a degree of madness. I know some point in time in our lives we suffer either from depression (mild or extreme), pessimism, fatigue, difficulty concentrating or remember and the list goes on as stated by Judz.

    University workload is way enormous than secondary education, especially for those of us who are part-time learners who are employed full time, with family responsibilities and other chores that we must balance while pursuing our degrees. The consequences of these ongoing activities can be overbearing and may plunge students in disarray. I concur with Shenzhem for those of us at the UWI, supporting units are provided for students with psychological disorders. Students including myself are experiencing such symptoms as expressed by Judz should go for a checkup before our conditions get worse.

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  10. elsaceline says:

    There are so many challenges being faced by students in higher education that mental health concerns become very relevant. Non-traditional students are faced with responsibilities at work, family responsibilities and the everyday challenge with their studies. It is often difficult to navigate between the different areas of our lives. Even traditional students find it difficult to balance all the activities that they are required to participate in.
    Are we cognizant of our capabilities? Do we know when it’s time to take a break? Are we aware of the importance of our own mental health? I don’t think I am quite mindful of these things. Like many others, I always think maybe I can do one more hour, or four hours of sleep can get me through. The statistics in the document regarding students in higher education do not feel very encouraging but for some it is their reality. We must however, find ways to manage our time and resources better. Oh yes, I know that it’s easier said than done. I’m quite aware of that fact.
    We also need to be more conscious of each other’s needs. How many of us actually take the opportunity to reach out to even one other class mate? Do we ever take the time to check up on someone? To ask how they’re doing with a real interest in their response? Those are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves. Maybe with a little bit of introspection we can find a way to better take care of our own mental health and also help a friend.

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