For incoming college freshman, the late nights, lack of schedule, and new environment can be particularly troublesome for students living with mental illness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four young adults has a mental illness, and more than a quarter of college students have been diagnosed or treated for a mental health condition within the last year. NAMI provided us with several tips for those students living with mental illness (reproduced below):
1. Do your research. Find out what services and supports are offered through your college’s disability resource center and student health center (including accommodations, therapy, medications and crisis services). Also research off-campus psychological and psychiatric services and hospitals. Oftentimes, colleges only offer short-term care so it is important to know what is available outside of campus.
2. Understand policies. Take time to review your college’s policies and procedures that may impact you, including privacy/confidentiality rules, leave of absence guidelines and processes for responding to psychiatric crises.
3. Create a support network. There are many opportunities to connect with others on campus who can provide you with valuable support. Look for opportunities to join study groups, clubs, sports teams, mentoring programs or even peer-run mental health organizations.
4. Set goals. Identify specific goals to achieve during college and focus on one at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed. Consider hiring a life coach who can help you set and achieve your goals and develop specific skills. Coaches can often be found through your college’s career center or by visiting the International Coach Directory website at www.findacoach.com.
5. Create structure. Establish a routine in college that sets time aside for homework, exercising, studying and socializing and positive, empowering activities. Keep a daily calendar to keep track of your commitments and budget your time accordingly.
6. Think about disclosure. Only you can decide whether you wish to tell others about your mental illness. However, it may be beneficial to tell a trusted friend, staff member, residential advisor or professor for support. You may also need to disclose your mental illness to receive accommodations if you are having trouble in school as a result of your mental illness.Understand the pros and cons of disclosure before you make the decision to share information about your mental illness.
7. Understand medications. If you are taking medication for your mental illness, make sure you know what to do if you miss a dose and where you can get a refill quickly. Also, understand the effects of mixing your medication with alcohol and other substances to avoid dangerous complications.
8. Take care of your health. Between academic responsibilities and social events, many students do not get anywhere near enough sleep. It is important to try and establish regular sleep patterns throughout the school year. Equally important is to try and eat healthy and exercise regularly.