The Higher Education Research Institute has been tracking the mental and emotional health of first-year college students for decades. This year’s freshman class has the lowest rate of emotional health documented in twenty-five years. The consequences of this will likely manifest in a variety of ways as these students progress through college. They’re more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, to keep poor study habits, and to require the service of on-campus mental health counselors. While adjusting to college is always stressful (both academically and socially), this year’s freshman class consistently sites financial stressors as having a direct impact on their lives.
Almost two in three students said that finances “significantly affected” where they chose to attend school. Students whose mothers were not working raised from 7.9 percent last year to 8.6 percent this year, and unemployed fathers were at an all-time high of 4.9 percent. In addition to worrying about the financial burden their education was placing on their parents, students also have a less-than-robust job market to look forward to. In previous years, students were free to “enjoy the college experience” by exploring new thoughts, ideas and social activities before focusing on “adult life” as graduation neared. Now, students arrive at college already apprehensive about their job prospects upon graduation.
They’re not alone in their worries. Money-related stress is a concern shared throughout society. While money can’t buy happiness, lacking money can have a direct impact on an individual’s anxiety, stress and sense of wellbeing. Even those who are employed may live in constant fear of being laid off; others retain guilt for having survived layoff while former co-workers suffer. Counseling for stress and anxiety doesn’t remedy the larger economic challenges the country is facing, but it can equip individuals with coping skills to help them weather it in the most productive, healthy way possible. For college students, it’s usually easy to find a therapist; on-campus counseling is available at almost every campus across the nation, free of charge. Adults whose insurance policies do not include mental health coverage may have access to workplace stress-reduction counseling, and many therapists offer reduced rates for the uninsured.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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