Welcome to Bipolar in Focus, I'm Jane Pauley. One in five college students will experience a mental disorder while in college, yet only about a third will seek help.
Active Minds is a college-based organization seeking to change that and Sara Abelson, Program Director at Active Minds joins us now.
College for a lot of reasons is a really hazardous place for a young person with vulnerability to mental illness, bipolar in particular. Count the ways.
One thing we know is that students are working really hard and the combination of all students working hard together in a campus leads sort of to a whole culture of stress.
We've heard from some students that it's almost a badge of honor to be stressed out in working on things.
And with young people, it's often hard to tell the line between stress and when something else more serious is going on.
Yes, because it's a good behavior. Working hard is -- working hard is good. College students also play hard. What are the risk factors of staying up all night?
What are the risk factors of drinking too much and drugs in someone who is vulnerable?
We know that with the sort of stress that students are already feeling on campuses and then when you add those other things going on, so the lack of sleep.
Well some students may start to noticing these concerns and start self- medicating with alcohol or drugs
and dealing with their issues that way rather than really recognizing the base of the problem and knowing when to go and seek out for what they are facing.
So what is Active Minds is trying to do about that?
Active Minds is working really hard on over 200 campuses across the country to promote a dialogue about mental health.
We work to de-stigmatize mental illnesses and give students the tools to be educating their peers about mental health and mental illness
and about the resources that are available on their campus for seeking help for their mental health concerns.
So what do you do to get a dialogue going on campus?
Active Minds chapters do a wide range of activities and programs on campuses
and we find that all of them have to involve a really good balance of fun to pull students into the dialogue and education.
We do two national days every year. We have National Day Without Stigma in the fall and National Stress Out Day in the spring.
During which, students host panel discussions with speakers, they hold movie events, they do health screening, they do a wide variety of exciting stress relief activities.
So they'll set up shop in the library during finals and provide not only games and food and snacks but also resources on anxiety and where to turn if the student is really experiencing a problem during finals.
So, what's the laundry list of tips that would make a college experience safer?
I'd say first of all college students need to know that mental health matters and it really matters as much as physical health
and they need to look out for and take care of their mental health as well as the mental health of their friends.
College students also need to know that mental illnesses are treatable and the earlier you seek help, the more –
the better outcomes will be and then more likely you'll be able to live a really healthy, happy and productive life with your mental illness.
Students also should know that there is treatment available on campus and it might be more accessible on their campus than any time later in their life. Some campuses, it's free.
You have free sessions with the counseling center as part of your intuition and so a few students are aware of that.
And finally, students suffering should really know that they are not alone. It's a common thing and a common experience on campus and they should not suffer in silence.
They should speak up about it and they'll find there's really so many students around them who are dealing with the same concerns.
Well the parents need to know that they don't know?
Parents spend a lot of time making sure the campus has good food or the classes are really good.
But parents should also be looking out that the campus cares about mental health and that they'll support their student's mental health.
Sara, thank you for joining us.
Thanks for having me.
And thank you for watching Bipolar in Focus.