Mental health problems in teenagers and young adults are on the rise. According to recent statistics from the European University Association, 40% of students in Europe experience mental health issues and approximately one in five of them struggle with some form of mental disorder. It is important, therefore, that universities and colleges take responsibility for raising awareness about mental health and wellbeing and provide students with the support they need to complete their studies.
In this article, we look at how poor mental health can affect university students and what university staff can do to be aware of it.
How does poor mental health affect students?
Anxiety and depression can make participating in class, or even going to lectures, more difficult. Students experiencing mental health challenges may find it hard to engage with the course content, contribute to discussions and complete their class prep. Their attendance is likely to suffer, putting them at risk of falling behind. Tracking attendance and engagement levels helps universities to identify those students who might need extra support or personal counseling from student services.
Mental health difficulties make it harder for students to focus. Loss of concentration is a common symptom of depression, and getting stuck in a negative feedback cycle can make things worse. Lack of engagement caused by depression leads to a loss of motivation and focus. This, in turn, can trigger anxiety over not getting enough work done, which makes it harder to concentrate.
Students experiencing depression or anxiety may struggle to keep up in class, take longer to understand the lesson and be unable to focus on the materials. If a student is distracted in class or they’re not working to their best, this may be a sign that they are facing mental health challenges.
Engagement and focus have a measurable impact on performance. Students who are struggling with their mental health may see a drop in their grades and find it hard to cope with the pressures of exam season or essay deadlines. High expectations put more pressure on students to do well, which can cause anxiety, stress and depression. However, if a student achieves lower results than expected based on past performance, this could indicate that their mental health is suffering.
People experiencing mental health difficulties often find it hard to think about the future. Long-term goals, like finishing university and choosing a career, may seem too overwhelming or just pointless in the face of anxiety or depression. As a result, students with mental health challenges are more likely to get lower grades and drop out of university.
Awareness of this is crucial to increasing student retention rates. If course instructors and personal tutors are familiar with the signs of burnout and poor mental health, the university can provide extra support which will allow at-risk students to complete their studies.
Mental health challenges can also have a significant impact outside the classroom. Another common symptom of anxiety and depression is fatigue – feeling tired all the time. Due to this, students experiencing mental health difficulties may have less energy and feel unable to socialize or take part in extracurricular activities. This in turn may lead to feelings of isolation, which can make anxiety and depression worse.
Students in this situation often struggle to make new friends and avoid social events, but it’s important, if they are struggling, that they have a support network to fall back on. Universities can help by ensuring help is easily accessible for anyone who needs it.
The importance of mental health awareness in education
Mental health challenges are different for everyone. The effects of poor mental health we’ve discussed so far in this article are all good indicators that a student is struggling and needs support. However, this assistance may not always be in place. Furthermore, a student could be engaged, attentive, socially active, and scoring well in all their exams but still be feeling anxious or depressed. Therefore, it’s crucial for universities to tackle the topic of mental health and make their students aware of the help and support that’s available.
Many people struggle with their mental health alone because they don’t know how to ask for help, or they’re afraid of what people might think. By having open conversations and raising awareness around mental health, you can teach your students how to recognize the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Getting them to understand the importance of self-care and mental wellbeing can help to reduce the stigma associated with having mental health difficulties.
At EU Business School, we are committed to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our students. No one should have to go through mental health difficulties alone. Our Student Services Department is set up to provide help and support, including personal counseling, for anyone who needs it. To find out more, please visit: https://www.euruni.edu/en/Prospective-Students/Student-Services/student-services.html.