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As stress increases, so must the attention we give to our mental health

University of Pennsylvania freshman track star Madison Holleran committed suicide earlier this year, one of innumerable students to have done so. According to Suicide.org, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.

The study “Leading Causes of Mortality Among American College Students at Four-year Institutions,” conducted by the University of Virginia, also found that the number of suicide-related deaths surpasses the number of alcohol-related deaths for college students, a fact that may be surprising to some students.

Mental illness seems to be a taboo topic of discussion — due to fear of ostracization. Students may be afraid to admit they have a mental illness or that they think they have one. But according to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental illness, especially depression, is a major risk factor for suicide. This fear of rejection and humiliation could also lead students refusing to seek help.

For our generation, one of the most prominent conflicts that exist today is having to balance school, work and personal life. The stress from trying to find that balance takes a huge toll on students’ mental and physical health, and too often, the price to pay is their life.

What students have to achieve now in order to even be considered for a job is exorbitant, said English senior Rama Youself.

“I think a lot is expected from college students: a good GPA, work experience, volunteer work, internships and so on. Trying to find a balance between so many activities can be exhausting and stressful when you want to succeed at all these things,” Yousef said.

“This emphasis on the competitive nature of life after college puts unnecessary pressure on college students who should put their studies as first and foremost. There is much to gain from internships, work and the like, but it comes with a price.”

Results from a report released in Spring 2013 by The American College Health Association — National College Health Assessment found that 31.3 percent of students “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.”

Considering all the hoops students have to jump through, sometimes it seems easier for them to just let the depression overcome them. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon for a student to break down or give up because of severe stress or anxiety over a test or grade.

With everything that is expected of students, it is not surprising that “it does negatively affect students’ overall health,” said biology sophomore Steven Daniel.

“The student has to focus on his or her studies and, at the same time, try to focus on other academic and social pressures the student has to persevere through. I think the key to all this is managing the stress,” Daniel said.

He believes that one way to manage the stress is to have an outlet, such as working out.

But for others, that may not work out as well.

Luckily, UH has Counseling and Psychology Services on campus to provide crisis services and psychotherapy for students who suffer from mental health concerns.

“Depression, anxiety and relationship concerns are the primary problems that students present to CAPS. Mental health is a critical issue for college students,” said Associate Director and Clinical Director of CAPS Christopher Scott. “Most individuals who complete suicide are suffering from serious, treatable, mental health conditions such as major depressive disorder.”

CAPS offers an initial consultation appointment, at which the CAPS clinician gathers information about the student’s mental health concerns and history and then makes recommendations based on that. The recommendations can include the services offered at CAPS, services offered through other UH resource centers or services offered outside UH.

According to CAPS, the cost of undertaking sessions through it instead of an outside service would result in significant savings.

For example, CAPS says 74 percent of its students have five or fewer appointments per academic year, which adds up to $74.37, $25 from out-of-pocket and $49.37 from student fees. For a student who saw outside services and had health care, it would cost about $40 per visit. For a student with no health care or who required services that are not covered by health insurance, it would be $120 to $180 per visit.

Scott said CAPS is well-equipped to meet the needs of the majority of students who come to it seeking help. And for the most part, it does sound like it is well-equipped to meet those needs.

But if there wasn’t so much stress and other mental health concerns that stemmed from school, students wouldn’t need to use CAPS. There wouldn’t be such a high suicide rate among college students, either.

With such drastic consequences, it’s hard to believe that everything that’s expected of students is supposed to provide positive motivation.

Opinion columnist Julie Nguyen is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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