Mental Health Epidemic in College Students

By Brittany Greve

The pressure to achieve more, add more to your resume and graduate summa cum laude, has recently become a part of the normal college experience. College students across the country have increasingly been seeking out help to level out the anxiety and depression they experience from their everyday lives. However, the number of students who need help often outnumbers the number of counselors on campus, or how many hours the office is open.

According to Time Magazine, between 2009 and 2015, the number of students visiting counseling centers increased by about 30 percent on average, while the Center for Collegiate Mental Health found in a 2015 report that enrollment grew by less than 6 percent. Students seeking help are increasingly likely to have attempted suicide or engaged in self-harm, the center found. In spring of 2017, nearly 40 percent of college students said they had felt so depressed in the prior year that it was difficult for them to function, and 61 percent of students said they had “felt overwhelming anxiety” in the same time period, according to an American College Health Association survey of more than 63,000 students at 92 schools.

While there may not be enough counselors to help students talk out their problems, there are an increasingly large number of students who are opting to be prescribed medication instead. With this increase in pressure to be the best, the usage of drugs like Adderall and Ritalin, stimulants, have begun to increase sharply. In Alison Klayman’s new Netflix documentary Take Your Pills, the history, facts and pervasiveness of cognitive-enhancement drugs in the last decade are analyzed to ask if the effects are worth the long-term consequences.

The documentary, while accurately portraying the long-term side effects, does little to acknowledge the good that those drugs actually do for those who truly need them. As a college student who has been diagnosed with ADD, it is infuriating to watch a documentary that so blatantly demonizes a drug that helps me function on a daily basis.

Take Your Pills portrays various students and adults who tell their stories about Adderall, but all they do is tell personal stories. They do not provide actual evidence that such a controlled substance is bad in and of itself. On the contrary, many of these people reveal themselves to be deluded, having simply acted stupidly and taken absurd doses of the drug. College is a time when students tend to experiment with various substances, it just so happens that Adderall has become the drug of our generation. Though I understand the point that, “It’s too easy to put a kid on something close to meth and not question it,” I believe that you should question it. You should question any treatment you are offered from any doctor you may see. Go ahead and question those people who imply that their experience with a certain drug is how everyone will experience it. But documentaries like this too often make people question if they should take this drug, even if they can help them.

There has been a sharp increase in mental health issues popping up on campuses across the globe. Colleges need to begin to increase their outreach programs and the help they can offer their students, including information about medication and their ability to help students. Medication is a key part to recovery, and one that, of course, must be taken responsibly  Nevertheless, it is one that should not be demonized for others.

Brittany is a sophomore Philosophy major and Italian minor.

Graphic by Caroline Polich.

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