June 18, 2024

A beautiful brick building sits gracefully at the top of a grassy hill. It’s surrounded by blossoming red and yellow tulips and old oak trees. The sun peaks over the building; a bell can be heard in the distance marking the time. It’s 9 a.m. Campus is peaceful. Tired college students begin to file out of their dorms and apartments funneling towards the building, coffee in hand, mentally preparing for hour upon hour of lecture.

Now imagine that every other student is battling a mental illness. A study conducted by Psychology Today found that 50 percent of women enrolled in college have a diagnosed mental illness as well as 40 percent of men. Imagine students at home, unable to make it out of bed because they just can’t. They aren’t hungover, they aren’t lazy, they just physically cannot. It is likely that those at home aren’t resting and recharging, they are lying awake stressing about what they are missing in class or calculating how many times they can miss class before it affects their grade.

The pressures of everyday college life are not talked about enough. We are here to get an education and learn but do so much more. We are employees. We are athletes. Dancers. Actors. Artists. We are in our 20s trying to figure out our lives. We are at the age where we are beginning to experience new trauma like the death of older family members, financial struggles, disintegrating families and true adult heartbreak. We are told that it is not enough to just go to class; we must be involved as well.

Freshmen year, I was in an Emerging Leader program and I will never forget what the speaker said. He stood in front of an auditorium of freshmen and told us we were already behind. We already were not good enough. He said we would not get into grad school or get the job if we didn’t stand out.

It wasn’t enough to take hard classes and get As, but you had to be involved and you had to hold positions. A semester later I joined a sorority; a year later I served as chapter president. At the same time I was working full time and was offered a management position, so I took it. I couldn’t be just a history major with a high GPA and expect a job. I was 20, taking over 18 credit hours, working 40 hours a week, dealing with mean girls in my sorority – who hated me for every leadership decision I made. My family no longer supported me. My GPA began to drop. I sat down in an advising meeting with my professor and she scoffed at my goals for grad school. Immediately in my head I began to calculate the debt to income ratio I would face with just a Bachelor of Arts. Every voice filled my head and I began to question every choice I had made to this point.

Twenty percent of college students admit having been so depressed or anxious they consider suicide. This has increased by over 200 percent in the past 50 years. These issues need to be talked about and seriously considered. I never want to go to my advisor’s office and look at her class of 1975 diploma and be laughed at as I hold back tears. We should not be told we are not good enough at age 18. We should be told just how much we can do in our remaining time. We should be given hope and motivation so we can lessen that 20 percent.

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