Finding Mental Health Help as a College Student
If you have a stomach pain or headache that isn’t getting better, you’ll probably tell someone about it or visit the campus health center. Emotional health is no different. If stress, anxiety, depression, or other overwhelming feelings are getting in the way of your academic or social life, reach out for help. You have people around you who care about you. If you are struggling in college, there is good mental health support available.
Friends and Family
It can be hard to talk about serious emotional issues even with close friends and family—especially if you’re concerned about their reactions—but opening up to someone you trust is a good first step to feeling better. Just saying out loud what you’re feeling or thinking can make your feelings less frightening and overwhelming.
Other people—especially the ones whose judgment you trust—can help you put your feelings in perspective. If you’re concerned someone will judge you for struggling emotionally, know that research shows that most friends and family members are very understanding and supportive. Even though parents or caregivers may not be the first people you want to go to, most parents want to know if their child is struggling so they can help.
Trust Your Gut
Many symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression are things everyone experiences from time to time, so how do you tell the difference between the manageable emotional challenges of life and a larger mental health issue that needs treatment? If the problems you’re experiencing become overwhelming, last more than two weeks, or begin to interfere with your ability to function, it’s important to reach out for help. But even before that, if you have a feeling something is wrong, trust your gut and talk to someone about your concerns.
Learn more about the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder and the difference between sadness and depression
Every year, millions of students visit their campus counseling center for help with everything from managing stress and identity issues to depression and identifying an eating disorder. Most schools provide free counseling for a set number of visits. Making the initial phone call is often the hardest part, yet many students who delay visiting the counseling center say they wish they’d done their first visit sooner. Remember that your visit to the counseling center and what you talk about there are confidential. There are a few limited exceptions when a counselor may contact someone else, including if they believe you are at imminent risk for hurting yourself or someone else.
Some campuses also offer therapy groups for experiences such as grief or mental health conditions such as anxiety and eating or substance-use disorders. Sometimes the issues students are coping with are the normal growing pains of leaving home, such as loneliness, homesickness, and feeling anxious about everything being new. Sorting out these feelings in a group can show you that you’re not alone and may help you realize your concerns can be managed. The counseling center can help you figure out if you would benefit from individualized therapy, medication, or group support.
You can also reach out for help off campus if it makes you more comfortable. Maybe you want to start the conversation with your family doctor or a general practitioner who can refer you to a therapist or other behavioral health specialist. Campus counseling centers usually have information about local providers who work with college students and might accept college health insurance. You can also contact local mental health centers or use professional locators such as the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.
If you or someone you know needs help right now:
- Text HOME to 741-741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day.
- Text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org.
- If this is a medical emergency or there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.
Learn more about common mental health conditions and emotional challenges and how you can get help for yourself or someone else in JED’s Mental Health Resource Center.