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.

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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.

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.
Additionally, different cultures have different perceptions surrounding mental illness. For example, studies suggest that compared to American students, Asian international students experience 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

The data presented here is from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
  • In 2021, there were an estimated 57.8 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with a mental illness.
  • Young adults aged 18-25 years had the highest prevalence of any mental illness (33.7%) compared to adults aged 26-49 years (28.1%) and aged 50 and older (15.0%).
  • In 2021, among the 57.8 million adults with any mental illness, 26.5 million (47.2%) received mental health services in the past year
  • In 2020 suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 25-34 and the third leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15-24
  • In 2021, only 1 in 6 international students had used counseling services and close to a quarter of surveyed students (22%) said they did not know how to access counseling