There’s no question that there have been rising levels of both addiction and mental health issues on college campuses.  Though a lot of these institutions recognize that there is a problem and add or adjust their resources to combat these numbers, the fact is that most students are still going without the attention, guidance, and programs that they need to really recover.

Combatting Campus Addiction and Mental Health Issues

Unfortunately, though it’s been acknowledged time and time again that action needs to be taken, “clear understanding of the causes of these symptoms is much harder to come by.”  It’s incredibly difficult to offer solutions to students when the causes of their diverse addiction and mental health issues are relatively unknown.  Though some have suggested likely causes, such as “a lack of resilience related to stress” and “competition for admissions to elite colleges,” there simply isn’t a single answer that can be applied to students across the board.

Diversity of students and student experience is something to be celebrated, but in these circumstances, it makes it more difficult to address the addiction and mental health issues that these young people face as they transition into colleges.  Part of the hypothesized problems arise in general society, with much of one’s self-worth “dependent” on measurable achievement and external accomplishment.  There is enormous pressure on people of all ages to have no flaws and to be better, or at least as good as, their peers.  Obviously, though, not every person has the same strengths and weaknesses, let alone backgrounds and influences, and therefore this impossible standard plays a huge role in modern addiction and mental health issues that plague the growing generation.

This is a period where these people are “

[shaping] their adult identities” and are therefore highly susceptible to outside influences.  This influence can be the stress from a class or the pressure from other students to, say, try a substance.  This would be enough to agitate a person without a background that makes them less prepared to face these challenges, let alone someone with some kind of trauma or prior mental illness.  So, not only are students unprepared to deal with the stress of addiction and mental health issues as they enter college, but also there aren’t enough (effective) resources offered by universities to combat all this.

“As if it needed to be harder… this collection of students is largely 17-19 years old [who] rely heavily upon their peers for guidance, and engage in risk taking.”  There are complications upon complications within this issue and to really be able to change one means adjustments for the system as a whole, which is a difficult feat.  How, then, can schools begin to develop programs that will be effective in minimizing the damage already done when new students walk onto campus for the first time?  To begin with, they need “physical and emotional safety,” which helps students to plan for and deal with addiction and  mental health issues, rather than flat-out trying to prevent them from happening.  A more realistic approach will be the more successful one, particularly in an environment where those two problems are highly pervasive.  Another avenue is to assist in producing “skills and resilience for long term mental health” and substance abuse.

As they work to find their way in the adult world, these students are likely at a greater risk for addiction and mental health issues than ever before.  Those who did not previously suffer from illnesses such as major depression and anxiety may find it developing as a result of the immense pressure of their classes.  Or, those who have no family history of substance abuse and who never imbibed in high school may desire social acceptance over potential health problems and could develop an addiction.  There is no single solution that can be applied to any significant effect in all schools, but the conversation needs to open up and get serious before things get much worse.

For more information about how to help teenagers and young adults who struggle with addiction and mental health issues, whether in college or otherwise, get in touch with The Bergand Group. The Bergand Group is Maryland’s leading addiction recovery center, and offers support for those struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

About The Bergand Group:

At The Bergand Group in Baltimore and Harford County, Maryland, our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol rehab and drug rehabilitation. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. We can help. Contact us today.