Nationwide survey says most college students view mental health as key component of overall well-being

Nationwide survey says most college students view mental health as key component of overall well-being
Months of isolation and social distancing can lead some to experience pandemic fatigue. (Source: KEYC News Now)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A College Student Fall 2020 Mental Health Report says 93 percent of U.S. students surveyed in September 2020 agree or strongly agree their mental health is an important component of their overall health and well-being, with 66 percent saying that COVID-19 has forced them to take a closer look at their mental health.

The Hi, How Are You Project and American Campus Communities (NYSE: ACC) released the survey’s report today to help raise awareness about the importance of mental wellness ahead of World Mental Health Day on Saturday, October 10.

With more than 12,000 ACC resident responses from incoming freshmen to graduate students at 65 campuses across the U.S., the survey data provides a pulse of how students are feeling and what they are doing to maintain strong mental health and well-being given the dynamics of COVID-19. It is one of the largest surveys of its kind specifically targeting college students.

“Whether it’s remote learning or the fear of the unknowns of the virus, the data confirms that navigating the pandemic has definitely added another layer of stress and anxiety to college life,” said Dr. Sonia Krishna, a board-certified physician specializing in Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatry and Hi, How Are You Project board member. “The good news is the survey results also reveal this generation clearly understands that their mental health is just as important as their physical health, and they are open to having dialogues to help themselves and others as well. Also, it is very encouraging to learn that three-fourths of students feel comfortable having mental health conversations and that they not only take the time to seek help for themselves but to also support others who may be faced with similar mental health issues.”

When stress and anxiety levels are high, the study says most students turn to music

In comparison to previous years, 85 percent of college students are more stressed as a result of the global pandemic, according to the survey. When asked what they do specifically to relieve stress and anxiety, 84 percent of students say they choose to listen to or play music, followed by 78 percent saying they talk with friends and family on the phone/video chat, and 74 percent saying they watch TV or a favorite movie.

With the majority of students saying they are stressed right now, more than half of them are worried they could be exposed to or contract the virus and nearly one-third say they are dissatisfied with remote learning, according to the survey. Krishna said these two findings could contribute to the stress and anxiety as factors in the overall current unconventional college environment.

Study says students feel comfortable opening up about mental wellness, caring for themselves and others

When asked who they feel comfortable with talking about the topic of mental health and well-being, 76 percent of the survey respondents prefer to talk with their close friends, 56 percent with family, and 48 percent with doctors or mental health experts not associated with the university. When asked if they feel comfortable having conversations to check in on other’s mental well-being, 78 percent confirm that they do.

Socializing and interacting in person is what students miss most right now, according to the study

Socializing with friends and interacting with others in person is what students miss the most, according to 84 percent of survey respondents. However, they are embracing technology to stay connected with others and also to help maintain mental wellness. As for which activities students turn to so they can maintain strong mental health, 85 percent say staying connected with friends and family is important. Respondents heavily rely on texting, SnapChat or other social media platforms, and phone/video conversations.

Some students may not be aware of organizations that provide support

While the majority of college students surveyed are currently taking a closer look at their mental health, 28 percent of them say they are not at all familiar with any organizations that promote health and well-being.

“We know that 75 percent of mental health issues begin by the age of 24, and college students fall right into that startling statistic.  Therefore, it is so important for students to know that there are resources and people available to help,” said Lonnie Ledbetter, senior vice president of human resources, organizational development and culture at American Campus Communities. “We will continue to help direct our residents to credible university and community resources, cultivate effective partnerships with the universities we serve, and foster a culture of open dialogue to help destigmatize any shame associated with mental health issues.”

To access the full report of the results from the College Student Fall 2020 Mental Wellness Report, click here.

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