The mental health of college freshmen is at an all-time low, and this occurrence is discussed in detail in this New York Times article that came out a few months ago. I won’t go into why this is happening (though I definitely recommend reading the article) but want to focus on ways to help these kids once they are in college.
Many mental health disorders surface during the teen and young adult years. Couple this fact with the stress and anxiety that often come with being away at college, and you may have a recipe for disaster. Dan is a good example. When he left for college, his OCD was manageable. By the end of his freshman year it had become so severe he was barely functioning.
So could Dan’s downward spiral have been prevented? Absolutely. If he had been able to be more open about having OCD, not just with professionals, but with his peers, that would have been a huge plus. Instead, like so many other college students, he most likely believed he was the only one with serious problems. Just look at Facebook. Everyone is happy and smiling. With all of the pressure to appear well, it is easy to see how students would think that they are alone in their troubles.
Enter Active Minds. This national organization was started by Alison Malmon, who lost her college-aged brother to suicide. There are now over 240 chapters, and it is growing by leaps and bounds. Below is their vision statement:
“To destigmatize mental health disorders by promoting open, enlightened discussion of mental health; and to create a better life for all who suffer. To capitalize on the energy and dedication of young adults in the fight against the stigma that surrounds mental health disorders, and to educate, enlighten, and empower all young adults to ensure their own mental health before it ever reaches a tragic stage.”
What makes this organization so unique is that it is run by students for students. They have some amazing programs that I will talk about in upcoming blogs, but in the meantime, kudos to Alison Malmon.