Mental health is one of the core pillars in the definition of health, according to the World Health Organization. Mental health is defined as a state of profound and sound functioning of mental process that culminates to positive relation with others, active and productive undertakings and ability to conform to the environmental changes and challenges (Warner, Boat and O’Connell, 2009). Mental health is vital in maintaining a person’s normal interaction with the external environment. Once the person experiences alterations in thinking, mood, behavior or a combination of these factors, then he or she is termed to have developed mental disorder. This can result in a broad category of ailments and disorders which may affect other avenues of health such as social, psychological, physiological and economical.
Understanding mental health is crucial in managing several conflicts that are attached not only to the college students but also to the whole population. College students are at a vulnerable situation for suffering from mental conditions due to the increased rate of situational crises. It is at this stage of life that individuals’ take full control of their life. They have to disembark from the role of being cared by their guardians, take full responsibility of making a judgment on what peer group to follow, concentrate with their studies and relationship factors set in their life plan. Such factors increase chances and incidences of depression, stress and emotional instabilities triggering mental disorders.
The review will focus on the college students, is based on a hypothesis that mental health issues are high in occurrence among college students to a larger extent than comparable age non-college students. One of the supportive evidence for this hypothesis is the degrees of suicidal incidences between the two groups. In this review I will seek to establish a connection between different studies that have been undertaken in the area of students’ mental health and focus on the academic and external factors that lead to depression and anxiety.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the significance of controlling mental disorders and restoring mental health is motivated by the fact that mental health disorders form the largest portion of people with disabilities in the United States of America. It is believed that mental health is fundamental for all the other human health. Social, physical, psychological and physiologic health will significantly depend on the mental functionality. Therefore, once affected the whole body enters a stale state. The previous researchers have focused on the general causes of depression and anxiety among students. For instance, a research conducted by American College Health Association – National College Health Assessment in 2009, revealed that 3/10 of students in the colleges felt strongly depressed to tackle their life effectively. With depression, the behaviors of the students are deemed to change extremely. Among the females who were depressed, the behaviors were weird. Cases of alcohol and drug abuse were higher among them than among their fellow age-mates and schoolmates.
Suicide cases among students are exacerbated by depression. This was supported by the Cranford, Eisenberg and Serra’s findings in 2009. Depressed students will be identified through signs and symptoms that reflect hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, irritability, restlessness, melancholic mood and feeling of emptiness. Understanding these behaviors will play a vital role in facilitating that the necessary strategies are put in place with the aim of controlling adverse effect of depression. Early diagnosis has been described by Warner, Boat, and O’Connell in 2009, as the most imperative decision in depression treatment.
Depression and stress among students have also been shown to be linked with family issues. According to Landow (2010), the family issues that increase cases of depression, anxiety and stress building up to mental health disorders vary from individuals’. Some students lamented the intense pressure from their families to pursue a given course, join a certain school, score a certain grade or combine several courses. Such cases from the family become an obligation that conflicts with the students’ desires or dreams affecting their emotional stability negatively. Among the course the students complained of the intense pressure from their families to pursue, including medicine, law, engineering and business related courses with the aim that they will take over their family business. In addition to running a family business, the careers are considered lucrative in the society.
Therefore, such students will be depressed for most part of their life in the institution, since they don’t like what they are doing. This will culminate to depression and chronic stress in their life. In other cases, being from single families, unstable families or having irresponsible guardian or parents, was also echoed by Guenther and Herman (2011), as a cause of depression among college students. These factors deteriorate the students’ academic achievement.
At the college level, students begin serious relationships and courtship. Unhealthy relationships, breakups, unfaithfulness and peer pressure from their college mates increase the chances of developing depression. Peer pressure on the relationship is more common among girls than boys. Landow (2010) mentioned that the fact that human beings are social beings increases the need to be in a relationship. College mates will yearn for being in a stable relationship, whether intimate or not. Relationship factors that can affect college students psychologically revolve around individual’s self-esteem and self-image. It shows the way a student is ready to interact with others in class work and co-curricular activities.
Economic instability is another core issue that determines a student’s emotional stability. Students encountering financial constrained are highly predisposed to mental health illness. Financial instability will lead to the cases of being sent away for fee; thus, affecting the consistency of academic chores. In addition, lack of enough economic activities will lead to inhibited relationship with other students. Students will tend to strategies and ways of acquiring money for social activities and personal interests. This affects their concentration on studies affecting their performance, consequently increasing the possibility of developing mental disorders. Eisenberg, Golberstein and Gollust (2007) argued that financial incapacities is one of the causes of school dropout, involvement with illegal activities in school, poor performance and depression among students.
Students would like to have enough cash to buy clothes, to travel and to host a party just like their colleagues. Therefore, when this is affected, the mental health of an individual will be affected significantly (Hefner & Eisenberg, 2009). In one of their recommendations, Hefner and Eisnberg emphasize the parental role of ensuring that a student minimally faces the financial problem. This will prevent cases of vulnerability of indulging into peer activities, which can ruin them either physically, psychologically or emotionally. Lack of adequate financial support may lead to illegal activities, such as drugs, prostitution or robbery. This further increases their degree of depression, stress and anxiety.
Changes in climatic conditions are also a factor that has captured researchers’ interest in mental health disorders among college student. Colleges have embraced international enrolment strategies where students admitted are not locally fetched alone. The diversity of students increases the chances in diverse ranges of climatic conditions exposed to such students. For instance, American colleges have been receiving students from all over the world. The continental variations in terms of climate become a stressful factor among the students.
In a study conducted by Essler, Arthur and Stirckler (2008), students from five colleges in Australia were asked to identify their core factors that affect their comfort in school. Foreign students expressed that climatic factor is a core issue. Fluctuation and changes in climate affect their studies leading to depression due to poor performance.
It has been hypothesized that the increased workload in colleges is a key factor leading to mental health disorders. Study issues leading to poor mental health include the students’ workload, uncooperative schoolmates, lack of interest in a topic, course or career, inability to handle exams and feeling of favors or discrimination (Guenther, Heiligenstein & Herman, 2011). Students prefer those subjects that have minimal workload. Unfavorable study conditions both at school and home increase stress build-up among the students. Stress is defined scientifically as a nonspecific body response to any internal or external demands. Stress build-up leads to depression, anxiety and, in extreme cases, to mental health problems. In a study, conducted by Landow (2010), curriculum and difficulties in understanding the subject were ranked sixth as the causes of stress among the medical students.
External forces are not only from parents, relatives or friends, but also from professors. College tests are mainly conducted in two formats, sit-in test and take-away test. A lot of pressure is experienced from professors regarding the take-away test. Poor performance is faced by stiff criticism and harsh punishment from professors (Conrad, & Dietrich et al, 2009). This leads to increased pressure to work hard in the wake of avoiding failure. Some professors will never show satisfaction in achievements and will consistently push students for higher achievements. Students have complained of the increased pressure from professors during project supervision or proposal development. In fact, students have expressed their feeling that some supervisors act in a way to punish students rather than correcting their academic work (Essler & Stickley et al., 2008). To some extent the pressure is seemed like personal than professional.
Elseler et al. found that mounted pressure from professors and academic supervisors leads to poor self-image and determination. Consequently, the performance is affected, culminating to depression. The date set by professors, for example, exam deadline and registration should be conducive with the students’ timetable. Intense pressure adds up to poor organization of an individual’s activities.
Counseling is the best approach to handle life challenges. Counseling helps in solving devising stress coping mechanism as well as offering an avenue to open up. Build-up stress in one’s life is dissipated during this time. One of the major approaches of handling mental problems is through psychotherapy (Diamanduros & Downs, 2008). This ensures that the affected person shares his or her feelings, thus potentiating way forward for finding a solution. Lack of proper counseling mechanism, both in schools and from parents, increases the chances of depression (Rones & Hoagwood, 2010). The students are left to find mechanism to solve their problems. This increases stress build-up and a feeling of desertion and negligence from the senior people set in.
Parents should allow their children to pursue their choice of careers but not force them to accept the so-called “lucrative or family matters” careers. In cases of such a necessity, enough explanations should be offered to avoid conflict of interest. Allowing students to pursue their general life problems is one of the reasons that are causing mental disorders among students.
Youths both in colleges and out of colleges are at vulnerable situation for engaging in drug abuse. The peer pressure and false myths on drugs predispose students to illegal drug abuse. The most abusive drugs in colleges, according to CDC statistics, include bhang, cocaine and heroin among other psychoactive substances (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012). The youth are easily confused that the use of bhang, cocaine or heroin will keep them awake for long; thus, increasing their study hours. Those with poor study strategies trans-night to study during exams; thus, they are more likely to use such drugs. Psychoactive drugs are usually addictive, and once started will increase their necessity in the body to a poor of substance intolerance. This may culminate in substance induced psychosis.
In a study conducted by Weitzman (2007), alcohol consumption was among the leading mechanisms that students opted to relieve their stress. However, the effectiveness of this approach was doubtful, since it led to depression, desperation, hopelessness and irresponsibility. Weitzman concluded that there was high correlation between alcohol and illegal drug consumption with depression and hopelessness. Consequently, there is an increase in cases of mental health disorders among college students in different parts of the world.
In conclusion, understanding the causes of mental health disorders among college students is a fundamental issue in maintaining sound academic performances. The school set-up forms a magnificent avenue for implementing policies aimed at decreasing incidence of mental disorders. Researches done in regard to mental conditions among college students have revealed that depression and stress associated with studies, course, social influence, substance abuse and poor counseling mechanisms are the leading causes of mental health disorders among college students.
However, there was a gap to determine the extent to which the internal factors can lead to mental health disorders without interference of the external factors. Future research should focus on the degree of course related factors solely. In achieving this, the researchers will have to monitor the study group closely to avoid external factor interferences.