A Big Win for Mental Health on College Campuses

Let's be real and admit students are human. As humans we have perpetual emotions. We feel happy, we feel stressed, we feel anxiety and sometimes we even feel hopeless.
01/08/2015 11:24 am ET Updated Jan 08, 2015

As a current high school senior, juggling college applications, my high school curriculum, SAT prep, too many extracurriculars and any form of a social life, saying I am stressed is sometimes an understatement. On the good days, the stress is completely manageable and I feel an exhilaration fueled by my responsibility, on the bad days I just want to cry, curl up in my bed and eat chips.

Anyone who knows my personality knows I have been looking forward to college since kindergarten. The whole bottom rack of my book shelf is dedicated to college guides, resources, prep books and brochures I have been collecting since before high school even began. Yet I am 99 percent sure that not one of these resources includes an overview of the mental health resources on campus.

Let's just put this out into the open: you are going to get stressed in college. A study by the Anxiety and Depression Organization of America found 80 percent of college students say that they frequently or sometimes experience daily stress. Similarly, a study by the American College Health Association found 32 percent of college students have reported feeling "so depressed that it was difficult to function" and eight percent reported seriously considering suicide. So why do we so often try and ignore the fact that stress, chronic stress, anxiety and mental disorders are rampant among college campuses?

This is why when I found the recently launched Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program (a collaborative initiative between the Jed Foundation and the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation) I was ecstatic. With already over 55 colleges and universities ranging from small state schools to Ivy League universities participating in this program as a four-year commitment, The Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program strives to create a framework for emotional support among college students.

What I find the most remarkable about this program is that its motive is not just to promote awareness, but to praise and assist schools on their abilities to address the problem and embrace solutions. Regardless of whether or not the institution has policies already in place, the Campus Program will try and collectively work to assure that the policies are not only accessible, but aim to be at the highest standards they can be. Beyond the leg work of the strategic policies and planning, the Campus Program will also work to protect students from serious situations, such as prescription drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning and suicide.

This is a huge win for mental health overall, but most importantly on the college and university level. While yes, there are thousands of institutions of higher education, and 55 is a mere fraction of college campuses affected, the Campus Program is doing something that will hopefully influence on a broader scale, which is far better than silence. What is also remarkable about the program is its ability to endorse comprehensive care, while also acknowledging the serious consequences mental impairments may have, and the unique challenges of being a student in a high-pressure environment (a concept that is all too real for even the happiest, most-on-top-of-it students). Additionally, these are valuable coping skills that students can also take with them, as they encounter stress throughout the course of their lives.

Let's be real and admit students are human. As humans we have perpetual emotions. We feel happy, we feel stressed, we feel anxiety and sometimes we even feel hopeless. I give The Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program and the 55+ schools (the list can be found here) massive props for being a part of this initiative and feel comforted and hopeful that I am going to be starting college next year with this kind of mentality and proactive attitude already in the works. Instead of pretending college is always like that laughing dude on the brochure makes it out to be, I understand that stress is simply a part of student life, and I am glad colleges are finally realizing and addressing this reality too.

For more information on The Jed and Clinton Foundation Health Matters Campus Program, visit www.thecampusprogram.org.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.