College can be some of the best memories you’ll ever make in your life. 

In a time before children, high-stress careers, and spouses, you’re at will to live however you’d like, even if that means eating pizza for breakfast and staying out until 3 a.m.

This newfound freedom creates a fresh platform for your future. 

So, why are so many college kids struggling with their mental health?

Rates are skyrocketing, and colleges are failing to keep up with the growing demand for help. Some, in fact, are questioning how much care they owe to their students at all. 

Mental health on college campuses is a true crisis. Let’s begin unraveling this complicated web. 

Brain Immaturity:

While most places consider age 18 to be of ‘legal adult age’, this number is far too young when you consider our brain maturity. 

The brain has been scanned, researched, and pulled apart for centuries, and psychological professionals have deemed the brain to not reach full maturity until at least age 25. 

This means, that college students who head to University straight from high school are expected to live and survive on their own, before their basic anatomy is ready. 

This can cause high amounts of stress, anxiety, and depression among college students who are navigating the adult world, while still a teen. 

The changes to our brains that happen from age 18 – 25 are crucial to developing healthy impulse control, and organizing behavior to reach a particular goal. 

So, why is it, we ask students at 18 to decide the career path they want to take for the rest of their lives?

It’s unsurprising then, when we look at the rates of hopelessness, despair, depression, and anxiety experienced by college students in regard to the future. 

What Triggers Are Causing Students To Struggle With Their Mental Health?

The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors conducted a survey in 2013. A staggering 95% of college counselors stated that they’ve seen a significant increase in students asking for mental health services. 

This growing demand is so prevalent, that the amount of students needing mental health services has surpassed the average number of student enrollment per year 5 times over.

With 73% of college students experiencing some sort of mental health crisis during their education, what factors are causing these alarming statistics? 


While it’s not required to take a full course load, if you’ve ever stepped foot into an academic counselor’s office you know how much they relentlessly push it. 

Their goal is to get as many students to graduate in as few years as possible, to enable room for more. It’s a revolving door based on financial gain. 

Most college classes are 2 or 3 credits. While every college is different, most run averages that hover around 6 hours of outside work per 1 credit. 

So, if you’re taking a full course load of 4 classes per semester, this comes out to 12 credits or 72 hours of outside studying per week. 

According to the Clay Center for Healthy Young Minds, more than 80% of college students felt overwhelmed, while 45% felt despair and hopelessness. If that isn’t scary enough, ⅓ of college students felt so depressed they couldn’t function. 

Substance Abuse:

When you think of college, you may think of frat houses, binge drinking, and wild parties. If you did, you’re not alone. 

The American Addiction Center conducted research on the usage of alcohol and other substances on college campuses and the results paint a grim picture. 

  • 1 in 4 college students experienced academic difficulties due to drinking 
  • 33% of college students ‘binge drink’ on weekends 
  • 9% of college students met the criteria for clinically diagnosed alcoholism 
  • The rates of using illicit drugs rose from 32% to 44% in 2019

There’s no question that alcohol and drug use negatively affects one’s mental health. Changes in the brain occur from heavy alcohol consumption such as increased anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, depression, and aggression, hallucinations and other mental illnesses. 

Many college students use alcohol to cope with the stress of their workload during the week, a toxic cycle that can become hard to break. 

Sexual Assault:

Around 27% of females, and 9% of males will be sexually assaulted at some point during their college education. A disgusting statistic that shows just how prevalent sexual assault is on a college campus. 

While 90% of sexual assaults are done by someone the victim knows, 97,000 of them per year involved alcohol. 

If those statistics aren’t sickening enough, 84% of women are sexually assaulted within their first four semesters – a term college students call ‘the red zone’. 

Despite this overwhelming, and obvious problem, only 12% of victims ever report their assault. 

Out of this 12%:

  • 1 in 5 felt safer after calling the police 
  • 1 in 3 felt LESS safe
  • 2 in 3 victims were afraid to call the police again in the future 
  • 50% of victims felt discriminated against
  • 1 in 4 victims were arrested or threatened with a warrant 

Just looking at these statistics we can see that not only is sexual assault an issue, but the aftermath may be just as mentally damaging. 

College Students Are Suffering Right In Front Of Us:

Overall, college students are struggling more than ever before when it comes to their mental health. 

Unfortunately, colleges have very little, if any, mental health support for their students. Not only are insurance limitations a common occurrence, many Universities simply don’t have the means for adequate testing and evaluations to take place. 

Due to the confusion surrounding insurance, payments, and referrals, many students don’t know where to find accessible help and often suffer in silence. 

This problem needs to be addressed on every level. University, State, and Federal. These mental health issues aren’t going to fade away over time, and if something isn’t done soon, we’ll have an American workforce full of mentally unstable adults.