What Is Mental Health?

Mental health is a person's emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It has an effect on every part of a person's life, including how they think, feel, and act. It also affects how a person handles stress, the choices that they make, and how they relate to others. Mental health is important throughout a person's lifetime, but because problems often manifest in a person's early twenties, it is especially important for college-aged individuals to be aware of their mental health. In fact, 74% of all mental illness begins by age 24.

Students who suffer from depression or anxiety can experience many adverse effects on their academic and social lives, which makes them more likely to drop out of school or achieve lower grade point averages. This means that as a student, it is especially important for you to stay on top of your mental health.

In 2013, a survey sponsored by the American College Counseling Association found that 95 percent of counseling center directors reported seeing a greater number of students with severe psychological problems than in previous years, and 73 percent noted increases in the number of crises requiring immediate response.

What Does Mental Health Have to do with International Students?

In addition to being the age at which problems are most common, international students have a number of reasons to be mindful of their mental health. For example, many common issues are often brought about by stress. College is a stressful time for any student, and for international students, it can be doubly so. In addition to worrying about homework, exams, and socializing, international students have to deal with the added stress of losing immediate access to their primary support systems. They are suddenly far from their home, family, and friends, often for the first time in their lives, which may lead to stress due to homesickness. They have to adjust to an entirely new culture—often struggling with culture shock in the process. It is very common for international students in the United States to experience difficulties adjusting to so many changes at the same time.

Additionally, different cultures have different perceptions surrounding mental illness. For example, studies suggest that compared to American students, Asian international students experiences greater discomfort or shame with counseling, less openness to counseling, and a greater preference for a flexible counseling format. Young adults who perceive a stigma surrounding mental illness are less likely to seek counseling. Concerns regarding language and culture can also act as a barrier between international students and mental health care.

Key Facts

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds.
  • 17.9% of adults between the ages of 18 and 25 reported experiencing serious psychological distress in 2007.
  • 8.9% of adults between the ages of 18 and 25 reported experiencing a major depressive episode within the past year.
  • 90% of college or university counseling center directors in the United States report an increase in psychological problems among their students
  • The proportion of students, nationally, with a previous diagnosis of depression increased from 10% to 15% between 2000 and 2005.
  • 75% of lifetime mental disorders have first onset by the typical college age range of 18-24.