The impact of mental health on students cannot be ignored as it plays a vital role in their overall well-being. It’s the basis that shapes their ability to navigate the challenges that come with academic performance, social lives, and post-graduation success.
Why is mental health so important for students in school? It’s no surprise that juggling academic responsibilities, managing social relationships, and navigating the pressures of the future can take a toll. Consequently, research supports that mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders have become increasingly prevalent among students, affecting their quality of life. Additionally, many students don’t have the tools they need to overcome mental health challenges, leading to burnout and overwhelm. Learn more about why student mental health is so important and what students can do to improve their mental well-being today.
Common Mental Health Struggles Amongst Students
How does mental health affect students? While no two students have the same struggles, there are mental health challenges that have become increasingly common. It’s important to note that seeking mental health support, such as counselling, medication, or a combination of the two can help students manage their struggles and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Additionally, self-care practices such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and regular sleep can aid in managing unpleasant symptoms and improve overall mental well-being.
The pressures that come with student life can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety. Many experience symptoms such as:
- Excessive worrying
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical symptoms like elevated heart rate and excessive sweating
Left untreated, anxiety can significantly impact a student’s ability to cope, maintain focus, and even participate in everyday activities. It can also lead to sleep disruptions, reduced self-esteem, and strained relationships — making it imperative for those struggling to seek help.
Depression is a prevalent mental health concern among students, impacting their academic performance and often causing them to withdraw.
Many students experience common symptoms, including:
- Feelings of sadness
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- A loss of interest in activities or hobbies
- Social withdrawal
- Physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach problems
Left untreated, depression can increase the risk of self-harm, substance abuse, and suicide.
Students are vulnerable to societal pressures and unrealistic beauty standards, which can lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with body image and weight.
Common eating disorders among students include:
- Anorexia nervosa: Students with anorexia may severely restrict their food intake, leading to significant weight loss and health complications.
- Bulimia nervosa: Students with bulimia engage in episodes of binge eating followed by purging behaviours such as self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise.
- Binge eating disorder: Binge eating disorder involves consuming large quantities of food in a short period, often accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame.
Eating disorders can have serious consequences on a student’s physical health, affecting their energy levels, concentration, and ability to engage in daily activities.
Seeking professional help, such as therapy and nutrition counselling, is crucial for students struggling with eating disorders, as early intervention can increase the chances of recovery and promote a healthier relationship with food and body image.
Understanding the Prevalence of Mental Health Issues Among Students
The pressures of student life combined with concern about the future can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and other mental health challenges that have become common experiences for students. Many don’t feel they are given the tools or resources to cope with negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours, causing them to feel overwhelmed or withdrawn.
Particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic, student mental health is declining, with over a third reporting a formal mental health diagnosis. It’s important to recognize that this number doesn’t include students who are not able to get a diagnosis due to long wait times, financial barriers or stigma — meaning the population of students who are struggling is likely bigger than we know. Additionally, over 60% of students report that they don’t have positive mental health. Acknowledging this reality is the first step towards addressing stigma and giving students the resources they need to get help.
Effects of Mental Health on Academic Performance
Mental health has a big impact on education and academic outcomes. The impact of mental health on academic performance should not be underestimated. When struggling with mental health challenges, students often find it difficult to concentrate, remember information, or problem-solve effectively — making test-taking and delivering assignments extremely challenging. Consequently, their motivation decreases, productivity suffers, and deadlines become more challenging to manage and meet. Research shows that compromised mental health can increase student distress, academic probations, dropouts, and even challenges in finding future employment. Based on these findings, studies show that mental health can impact students even long after they’ve crossed the stage at graduation. Having an understanding of these effects can encourage students to seek appropriate support before it’s too late.
Impact on Emotional Well-being and Relationships
Mental health issues can have profound effects on emotional well-being and relationships. Due to busy schedules and constant deadlines, many students stop the all-important self-care rituals that fill their cups to meet academic demands. Consequently, they face an increase in negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, including:
- Mood swings
- Low self-esteem
- Trouble sleeping or oversleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss or gain
These emotions affect not only the individual but they also have an impact on their social relationships, often putting a strain on peers, friends, and family members. Students who are struggling with their mental health tend to retreat from their closest relationships, which is often the opposite of what is positive for their well-being. Conversely, leaning on friends, family, or a mental health professional is what will help students feel better when they’re struggling. Humans are social beings, meaning close connections are essential for overall health. By seeking help and adopting appropriate coping strategies, students can manage their emotions more effectively and foster healthier connections.
Social Stigma and the Importance of Breaking the Silence
The social stigma associated with mental health is one of the significant barriers that prevent students from seeking support. Fear of judgment and the worry of being perceived as weak often hold students back from opening up about their struggles. That’s why it’s so important to have mental health awareness for students — it removes one of the biggest barriers to getting help. Breaking the silence is crucial in creating a culture that promotes open conversations about mental health. By sharing personal stories, encouraging empathy, and offering support, students can help break down barriers and create an environment conducive to seeking assistance.
The Role of Counselling in Supporting Students
Counselling services like Wellin5 are instrumental in providing the support Canadian students need for their mental health. Professional counsellors offer a safe and confidential space for students to express their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. They provide guidance, techniques for stress management, and strategies for coping with mental health challenges. Counselling helps students gain valuable insights into their emotions, develop coping mechanisms, and navigate their academic and personal lives with increased resilience. When life gets tough, having a regular counsellor acts as a psychological safety net that students can fall back on.
The Importance of Self-Care and Seeking Balance
Self-care is an essential component of maintaining good mental health. Students often neglect their well-being in the pursuit of academic success, leading to burnout and increased mental health issues. It’s crucial for students to prioritize self-care activities that recharge and rejuvenate their minds. This includes engaging in hobbies, spending time with loved ones, taking breaks, and establishing healthy boundaries. Seeking balance allows students to manage stress better, enhance their overall happiness, and maintain sustainable success.
Techniques for Maintaining Mental Well-being
While counselling plays a significant role in supporting mental health, there are additional techniques and practices students can incorporate into their daily lives to maintain well-being.
Practicing mindfulness and meditation
Incorporating mindfulness and meditation into their daily routines can help students foster a sense of calm, clarity, and resilience. Amidst the pressures and distractions of academic life, mindfulness helps students cultivate self-awareness and be fully present in the moment. By redirecting attention to the present, mindfulness reduces stress, anxiety, and negative thinking patterns. Similarly, meditation promotes relaxation, emotional regulation, and enhanced focus. Regular practice of these techniques equips students with valuable stress-management tools and enhances their ability to handle academic and personal challenges. For students who find it hard to sit still, yoga offers mindfulness through movement.
Setting realistic goals
Goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) can help students stay motivated, reduce anxiety, and provide a framework for progress. Unrealistic or unattainable goals, on the other hand, can cause stress, frustration, and a sense of failure. Students who set realistic goals are more likely to experience a sense of accomplishment, boosting their self-esteem and confidence over time. Additionally, breaking down larger goals into smaller manageable ones can feel less overwhelming, making it easier for students to track their progress and experience a sense of accomplishment along the way. By setting realistic goals, students can maintain a healthy perspective while pursuing personal and academic success.
Maintaining a healthy diet
For students, a nutritious diet provides the necessary nutrients for optimal brain function, including memory, attention, and learning. Eating a balanced diet also helps regulate mood and cognitive abilities, reducing fatigue and promoting overall well-being. On the other hand, a poor diet, high in sugar and processed foods, has been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Building a strong support system
Navigating the challenges of academic life can be stressful and overwhelming, and it is crucial for students to have a network of supportive people to help them through difficult times. This can include family, friends, professors, academic advisors, and mental health professionals. A supportive environment allows students to express their concerns and receive helpful guidance, reducing feelings of isolation and improving their mental well-being. By seeking out and building relationships with people who offer empathy, understanding, and encouragement, students can develop resilience and feel empowered to overcome challenges.
In a fast-paced academic environment, it is common for students to neglect their rest needs due to demanding schedules and academic pressure. However, not getting enough rest can lead to increased stress, poor concentration, decreased motivation, and even mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Quality sleep and regular breaks are crucial for cognitive function, memory consolidation, and overall well-being. Additionally, rest provides an opportunity to engage in enjoyable activities, hobbies, and self-care, which can help reduce stress and promote a positive mindset.
Mental Health For Students
Recognizing the impact of mental health on students is pivotal for creating a supportive and understanding environment. By breaking the silence and seeking support, students can navigate their challenges more effectively. Whether it’s attending counselling sessions, practicing self-care techniques, or engaging in open conversations about mental health, students have the power to prioritize their well-being not just to survive, but thrive academically and personally.Remember, you are not alone, and reaching out for support is a sign of strength. Feeling like you need support? A Wellin5 counsellor is available. Learn more.