National study finds majority of high-achieving students are overwhelmed
The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) and Active Minds, a nonprofit organization promoting mental health awareness, released new data on the mental health of high-achieving college students and information on how universities can help students facing mental health challenges, according to a press release.
The data is based on a survey of American college students who have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.4 or above. The survey found that 91% of these students have felt overwhelmed by the number of responsibilities they have, and two-thirds of the respondents felt the need to seek out mental health services in the last year, according to the release.
Jade Stepeney, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and the social media chair for the Rutgers—New Brunswick NSCS chapter, said she believes high-achieving students at Rutgers are facing pressure not only from academics, but also economic and social factors.
“There is a stigma that students with high GPAs have it all together. Letter grades have come to define students, especially those seeking graduate or professional schooling,” Stepeney said.
The survey found that many respondents have sought out help when facing mental health challenges, whether that be counseling, peers or University faculty. Respondents cited the stigma toward mental health, a lack of financial resources or a preference for dealing with issues on their own as reasons for avoiding help, according to the release.
Laura Horne, the chief program officer of Active Minds, said professors and academic advisors do not have to be mental health experts to help students facing mental health challenges, according to the release.
“(Faculty) can help a struggling student just by being there for them,” Horne said.
NSCS and Active Minds recommend that faculty should validate the feelings of their students and emphasize that asking for help is normal, according to the release. Faculty include contact information for mental health services on their syllabi or provide a list of these resources to individual students who come to them for help.
Faculty are also encouraged to practice self-care themselves and include well-being skills in their curriculum. Suggestions include mindfulness activities in class or setting daytime deadlines that will prevent students from losing sleep to complete assignments, according to the release. Faculty can also ask administrators to provide more resources and training surrounding mental health issues.
At Rutgers, Stepeney said she is grateful for the professors who promote mental health awareness as well as the faculty at Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program & Psychiatric Services (CAPS). She said she hopes the University will continue to expand CAPS services.
“The current system is built for short-term care, which undoubtedly helps many students work through stressful events,” Stepeney said. “I think that working on outpatient services for students once they leave counseling at CAPS should be Rutgers' main priority, as working through mental health does not end after one semester.”
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