Whether you are a student in (or entering) college, mental health and wellness are important to learning and achieving academic success. This page will help you identify common stressors that may come with student life, navigate conversations about mental health with your family and peers, and discover how and where to find the resources you need at your school to maintain your wellness.
A College Student’s Guide to Mental Health Care
While the steps to receiving mental health care may differ per school, here are some general tips and instructions for navigating the process:
Educating yourself on mental health challenges can be helpful in understanding certain things you may be feeling and how to approach them. While there is lots of helpful information available online, there is also misinformation, so it is important to be conscious of the validity of your source. Here are some ways to effectively educate yourself on mental health:
Through your university
- Counseling/Mental Health Services webpage
- Counseling/Mental Health Center
- General Health Clinic
Getting an appointment
Most schools offer appointment based counseling and psychiatric services. To get an appointment call or stop by your school’s mental health office or counseling center (different schools may call it different things). You can also check if your school offers drop-in hours where no appointment needs to be made prior to seeing a counselor.
Note: For some schools, it can take a while to get an appointment or the frequency of appointments might not be ideal. Also, some schools might be inadequately staffed over the summer. If you are feeling like you are not getting the help you need or need support in between appointments, there are alternative resources that might be helpful in the meantime. Your counseling center can help you find other resources and refer you to other mental health practitioners.
Other services your school may offer
- Group counseling
- Support hotlines
- Peer support
Many students face financial stress, but there are free and low-cost routes towards mental health care. Typically, health care and services are included in your college tuition! So if you are worried about finances, looking into your school’s mental health resources is a great place to start. It is always a good idea to double check when booking appointments if they are included in your school health care plan/if there are any fees involved. If your school services aren’t working for you, there are free and low-cost counseling resources as well.
Sometimes universities do not offer the same benefits and services to part-time students. If there are no mental health resources available to you through your school, we have provided some external resources that could be helpful to you.
Low Cost/Free Counseling
Outside of your school, some agencies in the community offer low-cost or free mental health services. If you are seeking services within New York state, you can call MHANYS’ Mental Health Information Center at 1-800-766-6177 or (518) 434-0439 for resource referrals in your local area.
Managing a Mental Health Disorder in Your Classes
If you think you may need help or accommodations for your classes, it is best to reach out early on or before classes start. However, if you realize once classes have started that you need help you can still get accommodations-just reach out as soon as possible
Who to Talk to
It is only necessary to reach out to those involved in providing accommodations. Who you need to reach out to may depend on the accommodations you are looking for.
Start by talking to your school’s Office of Disabilities
- They may be able to take care of the process completely or contact your professors for you about necessary accommodations. Otherwise, they should be able to provide the required steps to receiving accommodations
You can also talk to:
- Your professors-knowing about your disorder may help them create a more universally accessible learning environment
- Your advisor-they may be able to help you with creating a schedule that suits your needs
Steps to Getting Accommodation
- Identify your needs
- Register with your school’s office of disabilities
- Provide documentation of your diagnosis
- If you have accommodations that you anticipate needing/have worked for you in the past this will be helpful information to provide
- If an accommodation isn’t working for you or isn’t being effectively provided contact the office of disabilities as soon as possible
Types of Accommodations
Possible accommodations can include (but are not limited to):
- Extended deadlines for assignment
- Increased time or separate rooms for test-taking
- Reduced course load
- Allowing note takers or other technological devices
- Substituting in-class assignments with a take-home assignment
- Flexible class attendance
Asking for help can be hard but remember-your colleges are required by law to provide reasonable accommodations to you!
US Department of Justice definition of reasonable accommodation: modifications or adjustments to the tasks, environment or to the way things are usually done that enable individuals with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to participate in an academic program or a job.
Read more on “Managing a Mental Health Condition in College” from the National Alliance on Mental Illness here.
*This link includes helpful information on picking the right school, receiving accommodation, taking a leave of absence and tips for succeeding in school.
Talking to friends and family about your mental health concerns
It can be hard to talk to friends and family about your mental health. The decision to do so is personal, but for some, it can relieve stress by having someone to talk to about what you are going through and lessening feelings of isolation and loneliness. If you are looking to reach out and don’t know where to start, here are some tips:
- Think about who in your life would be most understanding. They might be the best ones to approach first.
- Have a plan of what you might say and practice saying it
- Let them know what you are looking for from them. Do you want advice? Support? Or someone to just listen?
- People might not understand right away or might need to process their own emotions regarding the situation. Try and be prepared for differing responses.
- Sometimes it is hard to feel like there’s ever a right time to bring it up. Instead of hoping the perfect time naturally arises, think about creating the right time yourself. Ask them to talk or hang out one-on-one in an environment you feel comfortable in.
Sometimes we don’t want talk about what we are going through to avoid worrying the people around us, but often when we are experiencing mental health challenges, people we care about have noticed changes in behavior and are already worried. By talking about what is going on, others can provide better support and tailor their support to what you need.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the people around you about your mental health-that is okay. There are other resources in place to provide support and care, But consider having the conversation, even if it is difficult.
Dealing with mental health issues and searching for the right mental health care while juggling all the stress that comes with being a student can be frustrating and exhausting, so practicing self-care is essential. Also, even if you have appointments scheduled with mental health professionals, you should try taking strides towards wellness in between sessions. It is important to ask for help from others when you need it but think of techniques you can personally use and try to designate time to take proper care of yourself.
Self-care is all about what works for YOU, but here are some ideas to start:
- Sleep-you should be getting 6-8 hours of sleep
- Eat healthy meals-what you eat affects your energy level and mood. Also, remember to drink water and eat breakfast!
- Take breaks from studying-maybe try meditation techniques to relax. You can find guided meditations on YouTube.
- Journal-write down thoughts and feelings
- Spend time in nature
- Listen to music
- Get creative (i.e. drawing, painting, collaging or coloring in a coloring book)
- Reward yourself for the tasks you complete even if they are small
- Clean up a small area in your room or house-tidying can help you feel less overwhelmed