College life is stressful for many, but it’s even harder when you are living with a mental health condition. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, PTSD or another disorder, attending a university can worsen your symptoms.
Does this mean you should avoid college altogether? Absolutely not!
What it does mean is you might have to be more intentional with how and where you spend your time, who you make friends with and what resources you tap into to help manage any mental health condition while still fully entering into the college experience.
Resources to benefit your mental health in college
With an uptick in the number of people willing to talk about mental health, there has also been an increase in the number of resources and programs made available to college students on college campuses.
Request reasonable accommodations
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, colleges must provide reasonable accommodations for students with a learning disability or mental health disorder. However, it is up to you to make the request and provide the necessary documentation.
Your college should have a disabilities office that helps coordinate accommodations. They can guide you through the process. Reach out to the office before you even arrive on campus, if possible, because the sooner you receive accommodations, the better you will be able to manage the condition and succeed in college.
There is a range of accommodations that can help you succeed in college, including:
- A reduced course load
- Substituting one course for another
- Priority registration
- Access to transportation services
- Extended deadlines and extra time for tests
- Taking tests in a separate room with fewer distractions
- Tutoring and study skills training
- Using note takers and recording devices
- The ability to change rooms or roommates, or even have a single room
Be sure to advocate for yourself when requesting accommodations. If you are unsatisfied with your current accommodations, talk to the disabilities office or your academic advisor.
Visit the school counseling center
Your school’s counseling center will not be able to provide long-term care, but they can help you access mental health care in the community, including referrals, workshops on mental health for college students and additional mental health programs.
Some colleges even maintain a crisis hotline for students. And if you need to talk to someone between sessions with your regular therapist, school counselors may offer drop-in sessions.
If you start experiencing mental health symptoms while in college, the counseling center is a great starting point to learn more about what you are experiencing.
Create a list of mental health resources
It’s always best to be prepared, especially when it comes to a mental health disorder. Create a list of resources that you can turn to if you have an immediate need or crisis situation. Some important resources to keep in mind include:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- Crisis text line: text HOME to 741741
- Names and contact information for key support people (friends, family, classmates, etc.)
- Contact information for your doctor, therapist and/or psychiatrist
- Addresses for local hospitals and mental health clinics
- A list of healthy coping mechanisms, including calming activities that can be substituted for unhealthy behaviors
Having these resources available and ready can help ease panic in a crisis situation as well as help you feel more prepared in case anything were to happen.
Establish a new routine
Physical and mental health are connected. By taking care of your physical needs, you can better manage any mental health condition.
It’s important to establish a routine as soon as possible when you start college. Create a reasonable schedule with consistent bedtimes, meal times, study sessions and breaks. Also allow some flexibility in your schedule. You want to be able to enjoy all that college life has to offer while maintaining a sense of stability.
Create an on-campus support system
As you make new friends and spend time with classmates, you’ll naturally start to build a support system. You may want to have a discussion about your mental health needs with some trusted people on campus. It’s up to you how much you disclose about your condition, but having someone to turn to when you are struggling can be beneficial to handling mental health issues.
Find a mental health care provider near your campus
If you are attending college far from home, you will need to find a new mental health care provider to help you manage any pre-existing mental health conditions. Ask your current provider for a referral, do some research on your own or contact your college’s counseling services. It’s important to keep attending therapy sessions and taking any prescribed medications throughout college as well.
If you’re attending college in eastern Pennsylvania, The Light Program has several locations in the area. To learn more or get in touch with someone today, give us a call at 610-644-6464.