College Student Mental Health 101

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

The college experience, at its best, can be exciting, formative, fun, and rewarding. But from a mental health perspective, life on campus can also be rather challenging.

For millions of young adults—many living away from home for the first time—the college years present all kinds of academic, social, and economic stressors that can lead to depression, anxiety, and a number of other mental health concerns. And while many colleges offer counseling services and accommodations, all too often these resources are greatly underused.

So what should college students know about the mental health challenges they might face? Are there proactive strategies that can help them navigate stress? And how can educators, mental health care providers, and loved ones best serve young adults attending college?

Audience Questions

Sarah Ketchen Lipson, PhD, EdM, provides an overview of common mental health concerns for college students, shares tips for recognizing and addressing these challenges and the conditions they can lead to, and answers audience questions about typical campus resources for students who are struggling.

  • What brought our presenter, Dr. Sarah Ketchen Lipson, to this work, and what is Healthy Minds all about?
  • Why are the college years a critical time for the development of good mental health?
  • What are some of the unique opportunities that the college campus experience affords students?
  • What should we know about the prevalence of mental health challenges at colleges and universities?
  • When you share your survey findings with higher education officials, what is their response?
  • In your surveying, were there many students who scored high on the flourishing scale, but also reported symptoms of mental health conditions?
  • Are you finding any equity gaps in your research findings? Any differences between big schools versus small schools, elite schools versus less elite schools?
  • What are some of the repercussions of not addressing one’s mental health challenges?
  • Do you have data regarding students experiencing psychosis or psychotic episodes?
  • When it comes to seeking help for mental health challenges, are there any patterns among college students?
  • What keeps college students from reaching out for mental health services?
  • Can you explain the red light, yellow light, or green light interventions categorization?
  • What is the “no wrong door” concept and why is it so important?
  • How important are residential halls, resident assistants (RAs), and other staff when students are looking for help?
  • What online mental health resources are available for college students that might augment those they can get on campus?
  • What are some of the lifestyle changes that can be effective for promoting mental well-being on campus?
  • Are colleges and universities embracing mental health and wellness programs?
  • What can community health systems or public health systems do to help campus health systems?
  • Has the Healthy Minds research identified any correlation between learning differences and mental health conditions in college populations?
  • How would you like to see college mental health research advance?
  • Are there resources you’d recommend for someone interested in learning more about college mental health?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


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About Dr. Lipson

Sarah Ketchen Lipson, PhD, EdM, is an associate professor in the Department of Health Law, Policy, and Management at the Boston University School of Public Health. She is also Principal Investigator of the Healthy Minds Network, which includes the Healthy Minds Study, a sweeping survey of mental health in higher education.

Dr. Lipson’s research focuses primarily on mental health and service utilization in college populations, and her work has been featured by numerous national and international media outlets.

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