Mental Health Issues in College Students

Mental Health Issues in College Students






Mental Health Issues in College Students

Mental health is a major challenge among college students around the world. Students in colleges and university are at a critical developmental stage between late adulthood and early adulthood, between the ages of 18 and 24 years, during when significant transitions are occurring (Ladejo, 2021). In addition, the transition from high school to college presents unique challenges to the student, which has serious implication to their mental health wellbeing (Ladejo, 2021). Suicide is a common outcome of the inability to cope with the stresses associated with college life, and is the manifestation of the adverse mental health experiences among this section of the population. This trend is evident in the colleges and universities in the United States, making suicide the second highest cause of fatalities among this population segment. Besides, the covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the mental health wellbeing of students as they encountered college closures accompanied with strict public health protocols that required isolation from peers, cessation of social activities, and taking lessons online (Son et al., 2020). The high levels of suicide among college students are alarming, requiring an understanding of the causes, which if the focus on this discussion. Consequently, the ensuing discussion delves the causes of suicidal ideation and suicide among college and university students in the United States.

Stress and depression are common mental health challenges among college and university students. Current statistics indicate that about a fifth of the college and university students in the United States had major depression and 41% overall returned positive results for depression (Best Colleges, 2022). Similarly, Sheldon et al. (2021) noted that prior history of mental health disorders, like depression, predicted the higher risk of suicide in the college setting. Besides, freshmen experienced a higher risk of mental health issues compared to their older counterparts because they were the ones experiencing the most transformation in their lives as they transited from high school.

Therefore, the high rate of suicide among college students is mediated by the prevalence of depression, stress, and anxiety.

Suicide is the second highest cause of fatalities among college students in the United States. This position has been reached following the rapid increase in in suicide cases in the country. Notably, Burell (2022) reported that the American college health associates revealed that suicide rates had increased three fold among young adults aged between 18 and 24 years since the 1950s. Currently, about 1,100 suicide fatalities among college students within college campuses were reported every year (The Regents of the University of Michigan (2022). Other national statistics indicated that 40% of the college students were familiar with someone that had attempted suicide, while a quarter of them knew colleagues that had committed suicide (Burell, 2022). These statistics are shocking and worrisome, prompting the necessity to identify the causes the high suicide rates among college students in the United States.

Stressors related to academic performance significantly increase the risk of suicide among college students. They may be excessive worried about their performance in college, following the realization that good performance assures a good quality and successful career thereafter. Similarly, the heavy workload at college as students strive for exemplary performance presents a significant and heightened risk of suicidal ideation and suicide. This risk is associated with the academic environment surrounding the students (Sheldon et al., 2019). In turn, college students experiencing high academic workload are unable to sleep, eat, and live life normally, aggravating their anxiety and stress levels. Reddy et al. (2018) denoted the outcomes of the academic environment as academic stress, which was an interaction between the academic environment and the students’ appraisal and reaction towards their environment. Consequently, the high levels of academic stress may overwhelm the colleges students and increase the risk of suicidal ideation and suicide. In this regard, they consider suicide as a solution to their tribulations.

In the same vein, uncertainty about the study major or career path to choose is a risk factor to some American college students. When students leave senior high school to enter college, they may have no idea of the careers they like or intend to take in future. Some students may have multiple interests, thus encountering course and major selection dilemmas. Others may lack sufficient support to make the requisite decisions. Besides, the selection process can be emotionally draining, especially for those that are unsure about their future (Burell, 2022). Consequently the selection dilemmas associated with course major sand career paths may heighten the risk for suicide, particularly when such challenges are accompanied by hopelessness and distress.

Another stressor heightening the risk of suicide among college students is the high expectations placed by college students’ parents and families. Parents invest heavily on their children’s university education, particularly when they have to pay for private tertiary institutions. In turn, they consider paying for tertiary education for their children and investment, which should yield returns, in the form of exemplary performance and successful completion. The pressure to perform is heightened when the college students are the first to attend college in their families and communities, which is common among the marginalized communities. From another perspective, these students, in their attempt to impress their parents and families with sterling academic performance, may fail to achieve the expected performance. Consequently, they fear disappointing parents and families after being (Ladejo, 2021). Such fears heighten the risk of mental health challenges and present a suicide risk factor among college students.

Many American students attending colleges use student loans to finance their education. However, that leaves little finances to servicing some daily needs, causing students to have to work during their free time to supplement their diminished finances. Since they are not yet skilled or certified as professionals, the college students end up getting menial and low cadre jobs that are poorly remunerated. Such jobs provide minimum wages, which are hardly enough to service the students’ needs. Therefore, colleges students with educational loans are constantly anxious of the debt and their ability to pay it afterwards, which raises their financial stress and anxiety, enhancing the risk of mental health illnesses (McCloud & Bann, 2019). Consequently, the poor financial position of the college students can be a stressor and risk factor for suicide.  

Many students that were used to strict parental and school control may be overwhelmed by the newly-found freedom in college campuses. There is little supervision in college life and the students are often left to their whims, including setting their own routines, selecting their preferred entertainment activities, even setting sleeping time. Therefore, college life is season for self-discovery and adventure, characterized by intensive peer influence and confusion. The multiplicity and multitude of these emotions can overwhelm certain students, leading them to suicidal ideation and actual suicide. In the same vein, the college experience may elicit feelings of loneliness and isolation, being the first time that students have spent protracted period away from their family and friends (Wyatt et al., 2017). Making new friends and living away from home can create anxiety that is overwhelming, thus presenting the risk of suicidal ideation and even suicide.  

Mental health challenges have a negative connotation in many societies, including those in the United States. Some communities stigmatize mental health issues because they associate them with madness and weakness. In turn, students coming from such backgrounds or living in situations where mental health issues are frowned at may resist seeking help when confronted with mental health challenges. They may refuse to discuss their mental health challenges with others or seek professional help for the fear of being stigmatized (Liu et al., 2019). Stigma violates the self-worth of an individual and promotes loneliness and isolation as the individual withdraws from society of individuals perpetuating the practice. Consequently, the mental health wellbeing of the stigmatized students deteriorates and ends up in suicide. 

In conclusion, the transition between late adolescence and young adulthood, where most college students find themselves, is turbulent and presents the risk of mental health challenges. The different risk factors were identified and discussed to understand how they enhance the possibility of suicidal ideation and actual suicide. The high suicide rates among college students indicate the need to address this challenge urgently to reduce further unnecessary loss of precious life. It is hoped that understanding identifying and understanding these risks is a starting point for raising awareness and encouraging interventions in American colleges.  


Best Colleges (2022). The top 5 mental health challenges facing college students and how to get help. Retrieved from

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Ladejo, J. (2021). A Thematic Analysis of the Reported Effect Anxiety Has on University Students. Education and Urban Society, 00131245211062512.

Liu, C. H., Stevens, C., Wong, S. H., Yasui, M., & Chen, J. A. (2019). The prevalence and predictors of mental health diagnoses and suicide among US college students: Implications for addressing disparities in service use. Depression and Anxiety36(1), 8-17.

McCloud, T., & Bann, D. (2019). Financial stress and mental health among higher education students in the UK up to 2018: rapid review of evidence. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health73(10), 977-984.

Reddy, K. J., Menon, K. R., & Thattil, A. (2018). Academic stress and its sources among university students. Biomedical and Pharmacology Journal11(1), 531-537.

Sheldon, E., Simmonds-Buckley, M., Bone, C., Mascarenhas, T., Chan, N., Wincott, M., … & Barkham, M. (2021). Prevalence and risk factors for mental health problems in university undergraduate students: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders287, 282-292.

Son, C., Hegde, S., Smith, A., Wang, X., & Sasangohar, F. (2020). Effects of COVID-19 on college students’ mental health in the United States: Interview survey study. Journal of medical internet research22(9), e21279.

The Regents of the University of Michigan (2022). Facts and statistics. Retrieved from

Wyatt, T. J., Oswalt, S. B., & Ochoa, Y. (2017). Mental Health and Academic Performance of First-Year College Students. International Journal of Higher Education6(3), 178-187.

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