Recently, I was talking with a close friend of mine who had left East Carolina University and moved out of state with family.
Our conversations range a variety of topics, from music or movies to memes or old memories. But rarely, if ever, do they reach any level of solemness. This particular conversation had been the first one of length we’d had in a while.
After a few minutes of trivial and inconsequential conversation, he brought up the recent student deaths that have occurred by students on campus. The fall 2019 semester had seen students lose their lives to a drug overdose and two suicides, on top of several reported suicide attempts.
I told him that. Then he told me that his last semester here, he had gone through a tough period of trying to justify his place in this world and as a result contemplated suicide.
I didn’t know how to respond to this. Here was someone I considered to be one of my closest friends, someone I had known since high school, more than a quarter of my life. And I realized how little I actually knew because I assumed that everything was alright.
This is a crime that a lot of us are guilty of. We forget to take a pause and think about how those closest to us are doing, let alone properly addressing our own mental and physical health needs.
According to two separate surveys conducted by the World Health Organization, 33% of students have suffered from serious depression and 39% of students have admitted they were struggling with at least one mental illness.
The American College Health Association conducts a survey once every semester of college students and in the spring of 2019 they found that in the last 12 months approximately 66% of college students have felt overwhelming anxiety, 45% felt too depressed to function normally and 13% seriously considered suicide with 2% actually attempting to take their own lives.
These numbers are drastically higher than they were just a decade ago, and both of the statistics regarding suicide have doubled since the ACHA conducted the survey in spring 2009.
The four quick years, give or take, that young adults move away from everything they’ve ever known are pivotal in how the next 50 years of their lives will turn out. So, it’s not hard to understand why such a high percentage of college students are dealing with these mental health issues.
From skipping meals in order to turn in that blackboard assignment after leaving your payless internship to attempting to manage a healthy relationship balance in their social lives, the stress college students go through is a reality for far too many.
We get so caught up in preparing for our future, that we forget to ensure that we’ll even get there.
We shouldn’t be too busy to ensure that our health is in the green or too busy to keep an eye on those we care for. The adage, “You never know what people are going through,” seems trite and cliche, but it’s important, especially during these crucial years of a student’s life.