Oct 10, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Today is World Mental Health DayObserved every October 10, it shines the light and mobilizes effort on mental health issues across the globe. One area where mental health awareness (and action!) is especially necessary is college campuses. The good news? Students are stepping up and taking control when it comes to mental health. Here’s a closer look at five things students are doing to support mental health in higher education.

1. They are seeking help.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a staggering 75 percent of all mental health conditions begin by the age of 24. Given this figure, it is easy to see why college students are caught in the crosshairs of the mental health epidemic. While this is alarming, there’s a bright spot: more students are seeking treatment for depression and anxiety than ever before, according to Time magazine.

Even better? ”Counselors point out that college students tend to have better access to mental healthcare than the average adult because counseling centers are close to where they live, and appointments are available at little to no cost,” explains Time.  

2. They are forming mental health clubs.

With campus health centers struggling to meet the rising need for mental health services, students are taking new measures to make sure their needs are met in the form of peer-run mental health clubs.

Research published this summer in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry indicates that these efforts are working. After evaluating the impact of mental health student peer organization Active Minds, the study concludes, “Student peer organizations’ activities can improve college student mental health attitudes and perceived knowledge and significantly increase helping behaviors. Such organizations can complement more traditional programs and play an important role in improving the campus climate with respect to mental health.”

American College Counseling Association president Lisa Adams adds, “The peer relationship really makes a big difference. The group atmosphere of learning while doing things together -- it really meets them where they are because they care about their peers.”

3. They are adjusting their own behaviors.

From talking about their feelings and using meditation apps to eating right and exercising, students are taking steps in their own lives to improve their mental health. The best part? These do not have to be big changes.

Wondering where to begin in your own life? “There is no one ‘fix all’ activity that will suit everyone -- although yoga is always a popular favorite. Think carefully about what you do on a day-to-day basis to help boost your mood. That could be making sure you get eight hours of sleep a night, taking at least 10 minutes a day to go for a walk or preserving some time to catch up with a friend,” a Student Minds spokesperson told The Guardian.  

Looking for more things you can do? Check out “Five Tips for Fighting Anxiety in Graduate School.”

4. They are talking about it more.

While mental health issues were once never talked about, they are more accepted now -- and largely because people are more willing to talk about it.

That isn’t to say all of the judgment is gone. In fact, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Time to Change campaign, “mental health still faces a persistent social taboo.”

Other ways students can make a difference are using non-judgmental speak, listening to others, and sharing their own stories. Screening for Mental Health, Inc. says, “Have you personally struggled or currently struggle with mental illness? Don’t hesitate to tell friends and family about it. Your story can encourage others to ask for help.”

5. They are taking classes on happiness.

Think you can’t teach happiness? Maybe it's time to think again. According to Now, some universities are offering classes on positive psychology and happiness. “Essentially, it’s about increasing our sense of well being, cultivating the skills we need in order to have life satisfaction, having a sense of purpose and being able to bounce back after things go wrong,” explained one instructor.

Meanwhile, psychology professor Laurie Santos points to the significant impact these classes can have. She said, “Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus. We're actually seeding change in the school’s sculpture.”

Are you involved in any mental health initiatives on your college campus? If so, please share your experiences in the comments section.

Read more about studying mental health here






Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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