College student in T-shirt, jeans, holding herself, stressed in busy hallway

An Honest Mental Health Review and Student Resources for Success

We surveyed 600+ students about mental health and their access to assistance at school. Here's an infographic of what we found, plus resources to share.

Mental health is a hugely important topic in the education world because of the major impact it can have—both positively and negatively—on students’ development and future stability. Poor mental health can lead to academic struggles, personal life issues, career path blocks, and more. In the aftermath of a world drastically changed by the pandemic that continues to throw some pretty heavy stuff at teens and young adults, students are navigating mental health as best they can.

We surveyed more than 600 high school– and college-aged students to get an honest look at the state of their stress, anxiety, and other emotions as well as the level of support they feel they have access to—because the first step to helping students with mental health struggles is understanding them. Here's an eye-opening snapshot of the current state of student life and information to directly assist students with these pressing issues.

Related: A General Guide to Mental Health Awareness for Students

An honest breakdown of student mental health

We understand the stats may be a little disheartening, but taking an unfiltered look at the state of student life right now will only equip students to better understand themselves and cope with their problems—and their support networks to better help them in that endeavor. Here’s what students reported regarding stress levels, causes of anxiety, and the levels of support they have access to at school.

Stress levels in school

With the plethora of responsibilities high school and college students take on, it’s no surprise that they are stressed. Of our respondents, 44% reported they felt high levels of stress on an average day, with 35% saying they feel some stress regularly. High stress can lead to exacerbated problems with emotional and mental exhaustion as well as anxiety, which is why students also most often reported either sometimes or often feeling anxious, emotionally drained, and mentally burnt out at school and in general. We also found that these problems lead to increased struggles with concentration in class regularly for these students.

The most common stress triggers

There are a lot of things that could potentially cause stress in a student’s life, both in class and at home, and you might be unsurprised to discover that most students get anxious about the same three groups of stressors:

  • Studying for exams, taking tests, and getting grades back
  • Being asked to participate in class, whether to answer a question, read aloud, or give a presentation
  • Doing homework and asking for help with assignments

Some stress triggers might be very individual and specific to you, but seeking solutions to similar or common triggers that have proven to work can make dealing with your specific triggers easier.

Related: Great Mental Health Habits for Students to Establish

Friends and other support

When it comes to mental health, stress, and anxiety, the people students are most likely to talk to about their problems are parents, teachers, or—the obvious—friends. In good news, the majority of students reported having at least a few close friends at school, with the smallest portion feeling as though they had none. Maintaining smaller, more manageable social circles can be good for your mental health, so you’re not overfilling your plate with social commitments when you can’t keep up with your academic ones.

But less than half of those same respondents said they felt they had someone to talk to at school if they were feeling depressed or anxious, with a similar percentage feeling as though they did have support but would not use it. A student who does use these support systems recommends the benefits of opening up to your friends if you’re not used to it: “Usually, I talk to my friends because we all deal with these kinds of emotions, so all of us understand each other and help one another out!” It’s easy to feel isolated when you feel like you have to power through your problems on your own, but deepening your relationships and utilizing the help you have access to will benefit you in the long run once you get past the fear of being vulnerable.

Related: How to Be the Best Mental Health Ally as a Student

School-based resources

To the best of their ability, high schools and colleges across the country provide resources for students to support them on their continued path through education and a healthy, successful life. However, many students reported not being aware of what resources their schools offer, while others know of but don’t use them. It can be scary to take this step because it might make you face some difficult feelings. But help comes in a lot of forms, so don’t think helping yourself has to mean talking to a school counselor if you’re uncomfortable doing so. Resources at your school or on your college campus may include:

  • School clubs related to mental health
  • A “Zen den” or similar calming rooms
  • Student Wellness or Counseling Centers with therapists
  • Speak Up Speak Out programs with suicide hotlines
  • Help services via text messaging
  • School and mental health counseling
  • Student Assistance Coordinators or Mental Health Assistance Coordinators
  • Group therapy sessions
  • 504 assistance plans
  • School psychologists and social workers
  • Therapy dogs
  • Peer Helpers
  • Classes and workshops on mental health and emotions
  • “Wellness Wednesdays” or similar programming
  • Regular events discussing important mental health topics

Self-help tips

A big part of managing stress and anxiety at school is learning coping mechanisms that make you feel more comfortable in your environment and help distract you. Many students recommend the benefits of focusing on the now and planning what’s immediately in front of you: “Just try to focus on the next thing instead of worrying about everything at once. I try to remind myself: One step at a time,” one student suggests. Another student agreed, saying that when they’re stressed, “I take a break and plan out what the rest of my day will look like and only focus on today.”

Another fan favorite of students is simply stepping away from your current surroundings when your emotions feel particularly overwhelming: “I try to change my scenery, whether that be going to the restroom for a break or going to my comfort teacher's classroom.” Many teachers understand the pressures that students are under, and as long as you’re not taking advantage of their kindness, you’ll likely find many are willing to give you breaks from class as needed.

Finally, one student reminds us of the real importance of school: the community. “I try and take time to continue to talk with my new classmates during lunch instead of doing homework,” they explain. “I've also joined a few clubs to help me feel more grounded in my community.” School is meant to be a community of support you can turn to as well as an academic wealth of information, yet many students attend and leave feeling like their time there is transactional. While some schools will have strict rules against some of these methods, this list of additional student suggestions hopefully includes something that will resonate with you and help meet your needs when you’re feeling burnt out and overworked:

  • Drawing, reading, or writing
  • Listening to or playing music
  • Praying
  • Talking to a teacher or counselor
  • Talking with friends
  • Breathing exercises
  • Counting and other meditative exercises
  • Pep talks and positive affirmations
  • Stress and fidget toys
  • Letting yourself cry
  • Making lists and organizing tasks to manage a busy schedule
  • Putting your all into sports and other physical activity
  • Lowering your workload by powering through and getting things done
  • Focusing on what you can control
  • Joining a fun, low-responsibility club
  • Using lunches and free periods to relax
  • Letting out a good scream when no one is around
  • Using noise-canceling earplugs or headphones

Related: 8 Healthy Stress Management Tips for Students

Resources from CollegeXpress

When it comes to stress, anxiety, and mental health resources on CollegeXpress, there’s an abundance, but you might not know where to look for it. You can start somewhere like our “mental health” tag, which rounds up all our blogs and articles covering topics from optimizing your sleep to coping with anxiety to combating bullying and more. If you’re looking for top-tier tips in one convenient place, you can check out Our Best Advice for Dealing With Stress as a Student or Our Best Advice for Homework, Studying, and Tests, which both offer a ton of advice for coping with heavy workloads, test-specific anxiety, and other academic burnout–related feelings.

It’s also important to remember that while we did not collect student racial, ethnic, gender, or other personal identification information during our survey, these factors are all very important to student mental health and often compound upon other issues. Students should consider and take advantage of resources that speak to their intersectional identities for maximum impact. Articles like 5 Great Resources to Improve Mental Health for Students of Color and Top Tips for Student of Color Success: How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome are a great place to start.

Crisis resources and support lines

There are so many mental health crisis and emotional support resources that are free and available to anyone, anytime. If you or someone you know are in distress, contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak to a crisis worker on the phone or through text. You can also message HOME to 741741 to text a crisis counselor for free in the US. Other organizations like Mental Health America provide crisis resources as well as “warmlines” if you just want to chat with a trained peer about school, life, and mental health.

Your mental health is important

The stigmas and conversations around mental health are changing, and students shouldn’t have to feel afraid or isolated in seeking help. It can often feel like adults don’t understand, but they want to, and they also want to help you understand yourself and thrive. So take advantage of the resources at your disposal; reach out to friends, family, and teachers whenever you need it; and give yourself a break now and then. You do a lot as a student, and that should be celebrated with well-deserved rest!

Don’t let the idea of college and the future be another burden on your mind. Use our College Search tool and plethora of other resources to master the college search with ease!

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