The Impact of College on Mental Health

By: Hailey Moore

SOUTH PORTLAND – It’s 2020 and another wave of students are enrolled at Southern Maine Community College. As exciting as this news is collegesats.org reports that “mental health issues are becoming more prevalent in the college setting.” College is a stressful environment and are easy triggers for students who suffer from poor mental health, which is primarily centered around surviving college and performing well in their courses. 

According to Collegestats.org, “the National Alliance on Mental Illness demonstrates that 50 percent of students rated there below average or poor.” The abrupt nature of college life leaves many of these students on their own, away from home and not able to cope with the change in circumstances. The downward spiral of their mental health can even leave the most well adjusted people feeling overwhelmed by their possibilities as a student. 

Jasmine Lambert, Sabrina Hinkledire and Daniel Dugan are all students attending Southern Maine Community College and have struggled to adapt to college because of mental illness. 

Jasmine Lambert, 19, is a first year student in her second semester at Southern Maine Community college. She says her poor mental health is a “family tradition,” as her grandfather, mother and sister all suffer from chronic depression. She’s also been diagnosed with ADD. 

Lambert recalls when she broke down crying in fourth grade. “I thought the world would be better off without me,” she said. Shortly after this breakdown Lambert’s mother placed her in counseling but she says, “the best way to cope with my mental health is just staying on the medications my doctors prescribe for me.” 

After becoming a college student Lambert has noticed that she’s far more stressed than ever before. Lambert says that she’s struggled with balancing her workload and believes her ADD is the most challenging thing to cope with. “My ADD is saying, ‘I have thousands of things to do, but let’s not do any of that.’ So I can’t enjoy my downtime because I’m stressing about everything,” she shared. 

Sabrina Hinkledire, 19, has been struggling with managing her anxiety disorder since coming to SMCC. Hinkledire takes medication to deal with her panic attacks just to get through class sessions. “When I get panic attacks and it feels like I’m in a different world,” she said. “My skin goes pale and clammy, and my vision gets very blurry.” 

Hinkledire suffered a panic attack last semester during one of her classes. “I couldn’t breath and it felt like I was going to die,” she described. Hinkledire says this semester is even worse and often feels overwhelmed with the amount of school work she gets per week. She says she never feels like she gets enough sleep and is often up until 2 a.m. finishing her homework. “I’ll be taking a semester off,” Hinkledire says. “So I can get myself back on track.” 

Daniel Dugan, 18, is another fresh faced student who is in his second semester at SMCC battling anxiety and depression. Dugan described his mental state as “muted,” which he says caused him to dissociate from everything around him. Dugan feels that this mainly happened because of the stress he felt balancing his classes on top of all his new responsibilities. “Everything made me nauseated,” he said. 

But Dugan says things have gotten better during his second semester at SMCC. He credits his newfound relationships he’s made during his time at SMCC for helping to quell his mental health issues. Dugan is also happy that SMCC is a relatively small campus. “Everyone knows each other in the Springpoint dorm,” he said. 

Dugan says Sweetster has helped him adjust to college life. Dugan shared that he set up counseling with Sweetser to help improve his mental state and says that “the scheduling and counseling have been just fine.” According to its website, Sweetster is a non-profit mental health organization. It has a training institute located in Southern Maine Community College’s Health Science Building. Sweetster partnered with SMCC to provide free counseling for any enrolled students to seek help. We tried to get in touch with Sweetster for a better understanding of how the organization functions, but we did not hear back. 

Dugan says that he feels that the college isn’t responsible for providing students with free counseling. He says, “The college is only responsible for classes and the students actually have to take the initiative and schedule counseling.” 

Hinkledire says she didn’t know anything about Sweetster. “I didn’t hear anything about free, onsite counseling,” she said. “I checked online, I’ve checked the campus book and even asked people about some kind of help-line. I feel that Sweetster would prove to be very beneficial, especially for me.” 

Lambert says communication may be an issue. “It’s all about getting the word out so that kids know that there’s free counseling that can help with any mental issues that they may suffer from,” she said. “Especially with how hard it is for students to afford counseling alongside tuition.” Mental health struggles in college is an ever – growing problem nationwide. If you or anyone you know struggles with these issues we encourage you to reach out to Sweetster to receive help. 

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