For most students, stress is a constant of the college experience. Being away from home and family, living with roommates, facing tougher classes, and balancing a heavy work load with a social life can lead many students to feel overwhelmed. For the 1 in 5 students living with a mental health condition, these stressors prove to be even more challenging. The majority of mental illnesses emerge by age 24, so many students are coping with all of the new challenges that come with college, in addition to adjusting to their new mental illness diagnosis.
The stats show that dealing with a mental health condition college can impede a student’s success. Surveys show that 64% of students who experience mental health problems in college withdraw because of their mental health issues. College students with bipolar disorder are 70% more likely to drop out of college than students with no psychiatric diagnosis. Another survey shows 47% of adults living with schizophrenia drop out of college, compared to the 27% overall college dropout rate. While the numbers might be discouraging, if you have a mental illness know that a diploma is a real possibility for you.
Universities aren’t always the best advocates for students suffering from mental illness. They’re often more eager to help students withdraw than to graduate. Until universities adopt welcoming, supportive policies for students living with mental illnesses, it remains the responsibilities of students and their parents to be their own advocates. If you’re suffering with a serious mental illness, your road to a degree may branch from the traditional route. Lighter course loads, major changes, extra semesters, and periodic breaks may all be part of the journey but the final destination, graduation, remains the same and wholly possible. Consider the following to make the journey to graduation smoother:
• Take a leave of absence. No matter what, your mental health always remains the number one priority. If taking a break from school is what you need to recover, do it. In the long run, taking a semester or two off to get your symptoms in check is no big deal. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with your school’s policy so you can provide all the necessary documentation, like letters from a psychiatrist.
• Enlist the support of a psychiatrist. If you’ve taken a leave of absence, before you can re-enroll in school, you’ll need the approval of a mental health professional to ensure that their symptoms are in remission. Whether you’ve taken a leave of absence or not, finding a psychiatrist near campus is a good idea. Being able to talk with a professional about what’s going on can keep your symptoms in check and you on track.
• Contact disability services. To be eligible for accommodations, register with your school’s disability resource office. Depending on how much help you need and what’s available at your school, these common accommodations may be available to help: priority registration, reduced course load, transportation services, extended deadlines, tutoring, and alternative exam arrangements.
• Assemble a healthy social life. Building a support system from scratch may seem daunting, but college is the prime time to meet new people and discover new aspects of yourself. While you can still seek stability from your family and friend connections at home, you’ll really grow by connecting with new people through classes and clubs. Take advantage of the campus recreation center and gym and make exercise a part of your routine. Avoid or at least limit the role of drugs and alcohol in your social life.
If you or a loved one is living with a mental illness like depression, anxiety, bipolar depression, or schizophrenia, call 1-877-SEGAL-88 or fill out the form below to learn more about out enrolling studies.