Stress can get the best of anyone and students at Illinois State University are no exception.
A growing number of students in the nation are experiencing mental health issues related to stress. Untreated, high levels of stress can lead to anxiety and depression.
Statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) report that 50% of all mental illness cases start developing by age 14, and 75% start by age 24.
According to the ADAA, anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues in college students. They also reported that in 2016, 85% college students said they felt overwhelmed with everything they had to do in the year.
ISU Director of Student Counseling Services Sandy Colbs stated in an interview with the Pantagraph that when mental health issues are ignored and not dealt with, students suffer even more.
“Untreated mental illness is one of the primary reasons people drop out of college,” Colbs said. “There’s also some evidence that it can impact grade point average even if they stay.”
Many students are feeling the pressure of stress and anxiety while attending college. One major reason for the growing pressure may have to do with the way the market values a college education. With the average student taking out some form of a loan to pay for higher education, the pressure to return on that investment with a high GPA and a well-paying job out of college certainly doesn’t ease any student’s mind.
Senior Communication major Wynter Sampson understands the level of stress quite well. She said that making time for everything that matters in college can contribute to that stress level.
“Time management is huge in college, and I’m still not good at it,” Sampson said.
“I just tell myself that, like everything else in life, whatever is bothering me will pass. So even if I’m stressed about a quiz due at 11:55 p.m., an assignment due at 11:59 p.m., a group project that needs to be worked on and a 10-page paper due the next morning, I crank it all out keeping in mind that once I get it all done, I can move on to things that I actually enjoy.”
Sampson said that she pushes through the stress by thinking about the feeling of having nothing left to do.
“Stress can seriously kill you, so I just take a moment and imagine the weight lifted at the thought of it all being done, and I do it.”
Another example of students managing to beat the stress is Senior Athletic Training major Jensen Plata. Like many students at ISU, she had to attend class and work a job throughout all of it.
“Since I’m a second-semester senior, I don’t have too much stress, but when I had to get ready for my certification exam a few weeks ago, studying for that was super stressful,” Plata said.
“I only had five credit hours this semester, so I don’t have a whole lot to deal with, but just making sure I graduate is the biggest thing in my mind.”
Plata considers the plight of students like her that had to maintain good grades and show up to work. She thinks some major issues that cause students stress are making sure they have enough experience to get a job, making sure they’ll have a job in their field, deciding if they want to go to grad school and trying to pay for their education by working throughout the semester.
“Personally I’ve felt the most stress from applying to grad schools; they expect so much, and they have so many applicants, and they also take forever to get back to you with decisions,” she said.
“I think living up to your own expectations, as well as your parents’ expectations and society’s expectations puts a lot of pressure on college students. I’m lucky enough to not have to worry about paying for my undergrad education, but for the students who don’t have that luxury, I can imagine that having to hold down a job, maybe two, to help pay for school as well as making sure they do well with their school work puts a lot of pressure on them too.”
Does that level of stress and pressure go away? ISU alumnus Cameron Powers graduated with a degree in exercise science. He currently works as a personal training director at LA Fitness. In his experience, he said that not much has changed.
“As I look back, I did have a lot of stress while I was in school,” Powers said.
“To me, life in general is stressful. My life, both during and after college, is and was performance-based, whether it be grades, sports or sales. I don’t think my life has gotten more or less stressful after graduating. The only change I noticed were different ways of coping and managing that stress.”
For students currently attending ISU, there are plenty of resources to take advantage of when things get overwhelming. The SCS is available from 8 a.m. - 4:30 pm. Monday through Friday. Students have access to a variety of options designed to help reduce stress levels and encourage mental health wellness.