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Mental Illness Increasing Across College Campuses

Mental health is an essential part of who a person is. It includes their emotions and the well-being of how they feel, think and act. It is because of mental health, how people make choices and their perception of life.

It is inevitable that stress will affect a person. Mental health determines how said person handles that stress. Stress is a healthy feature for people. It lets us know what a person need to do. However, when a person experiences an overwhelming amount of stress it can become unhealthy causing issues.

“There is no single factor or cause for mental health disorders or issues,” said Beth Bowin, NSU psychology professor. “They are comprised of a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors.”

The brain is what plays a major role in mental health. The process of fear in the brain is called amygdala, which helps a person avoid harm and danger and works with the prefrontal cortex.

“The prefrontal cortex is what controls the response to stressful and fearful situations and helps a person make decisions, said Healthcare Marketing Video; Brain and Mental Health from Nucleus Medical Media. “The working units of the brain are neurons that pass messages to one another through electrical impulses.”

The video explains that after messages are received from the Axon, neurotransmitters attach to neurons and they produce their own impulses. Those impulses spread across the brain and problems with this process result in mental illnesses and mental disorders. Depression can occur when this is not processed correctly.

Mental illness is what negatively affects a person, emotionally, psychologically and physically. The common mental disorders are anxiety, depression, bipolar and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The average age of onset for mental illness is between the ages of 18-24. “Nearly three-quarters of mental health conditions emerge by age 24,” said the National Alliance on Mental Illness, . “So many college students are facing mental health concerns for the first time, and may not know where to go for support.”

NAMI, said within the past year more than 25 percent of college students were diagnosed for mental health and more than 40 percent experienced above average amounts of stress.

“Some students are away from home for the first time,” said Tammy Warren, student development counselor. “They are in a new environment, new state, and sometimes even a new country.”

College and university students are seeing an epidemic on mental illnesses. The No. 1 and most common mental health problem on college campuses is anxiety. Anxiety is a normal emotion, however when it interferes with a student’s focus, motivation, studies and health, it can make an already stressful situation, worse. People, who suffer from anxiety, experience their first episode by age twenty-two. Anxiety in students could be common due to a number of reasons.

“Environmental factors such as parenting strategies, your social experiences from family or school or anything like that can alter you thought processes,” said Bowin. Erin Steeley, Tahlequah former student, said she was not prepared for the stress of college when she started and was unaware of on-campus counseling services.

“I smoked two and a half packs a day and drank way too much coffee,” said Steeley. “I lost tons of weight and got so overwhelmed that I flunked a couple of easy classes because I just was too flustered to concentrate. I think it takes time to know yourself enough to even become aware of the signs and symptoms of mental illness.”

Depression is another major mental illness seen growing across college campuses and is becoming a national trend. A 2014 survey from the University of California shows students reported worries of finding a job after graduation and financial security.

“It’s a very adult world and you are jumping from living at home to having adult responsibilities and it’s a hard transition”, said Jessica Doughitt, Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health NIAAA Evaluation Coordinator.

There is always help for those who suffer from mental illnesses. There are various resources people can consider for help; therapists, career counselors, amicable professors, or any licensed professional.

For students, counseling is available on campuses, including NSU. Students are advised to get plenty of sleep, maintain a healthy diet and exercise. A healthy lifestyle can make a difference when it comes to mental health. Feeling good physically can help a person feel good mentally and emotionally.

“The way you think about things and the internal communication you have with yourself can also aid in the development of mental or behavioral disorders,” said Bowin.

HawkReach Counseling Services are free to all students and are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located in the Leoser Complex at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.

If students do not feel comfortable with face-to-face engagements or they just need someone to talk to, they can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273.8255.

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