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Recreation, Fitness & Wellness, Student Life

Mental health issues prevalent among 18- to 24-year-olds

During her sophomore year, Kelly Ann Ergle, overwhelmed with all of her responsibilities, was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.

Ergle had battled anorexia in high school, but her anxiety increased in college. She didn’t want to get out of bed or go to class and began to experience panic attacks, one of which led her to check herself into the hospital because she feared a heart attack.

“Every semester I take on more things and it snowballs,” Ergle said. “It’s a common story.”

In fact, it is. Attending college has always been a stressful time for those attending, but many college students today are also experiencing mental health problems and universities are finding more students arriving with pre-existing mental health diagnoses.

From 2010-2011, the University of South Florida’s Counseling Services saw 2,431 students for concerns of coping with stress, lack of concentration, sleeping problems or loneliness, according to Dr. Abigail Saneholtz, a psychologist at USF’s Counseling Center.

“Most concerns are with stress.. Depression is a close second,” Saneholtz said. “More students are coming in with significant issues who have been seen in therapy before.”

Approximately 20 to 25 percent of those students seeking treatment have had issues or past experience with a mental health problem, according to Dr. Alan Kent, assistant vice president of USF Student Affairs.

In the past few decades, advancements in medication and psychiatric care have allowed students with mental health problems who historically may not have attended college to do so now.

“They have enabled people to be more successful,” Kent said.

However, not all students have been diagnosed before and this stressful time causes some problems to manifest themselves while in college.

“Coming to college is stressful enough for healthy individuals,” Kent said. “We know many mental health illnesses become revealed in the age range of 18 to 24.”

This age range is also when many diagnoses of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are made.

“This is a time where there is a lot of questions, a lot of change and a lot of growth and development,” Saneholtz said.

College is not the only factor in why a student develops a mental illness; some factors are there before students attend school. Many psychologists look at it from a biopsychosocial approach which looks at various contributing factors, such as family history or a person’s genetic vulnerability, according to Saneholtz.

Ergle is still battling with anxiety which has effected her college experience. She is now a senior majoring in psychology and is the president of Active Minds, an organization on campus that is committed to raising awareness about mental illness and reducing the stigma attached to them.

“People are embarrassed; no one wants to admit that they are overwhelmed,” she said. “It is something that people aren’t comfortable talking about, but it’s okay and it’s good to.”

About Meghan Mangrum

Magazine Journalism Student at the University of South Florida. ☮ ♥ ΦΣΠ. Aspiring writer and explorer.


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