Mental Health and Academic Success in College
mental health academic success

For college students, putting mental health first is an important part of overall wellness. Success in college is often attributed to a student’s work ethic and intelligence, which are major factors. However, mental health also plays a role in academic success. Research suggests anxiety and depression as early predictors of a low GPA. Mental health issues were also associated with higher instances of dropout. A study found that of students with low GPAs (less than 3.0), 25% who exhibited mental health problems dropped out compared to less than 10% in students without these issues.

Lack of Motivation

With mental health issues such as depression, complacency and lack of motivation are very common. It can be hard to complete simple daily tasks, let alone take initiative to do homework and study. This can lead to procrastination, falling behind in classes and withdrawing socially. As a result, these factors hinder academic performance.

Cognitive Problems

Mental health issues can cause brain fog where sufferers can’t think about much else. The effects differ for every case and condition. But overall, mental health takes a toll on a student’s ability to focus, remember key details and perform well. Those with untreated anxiety may find test taking difficult, and this can poorly affect grades even if the student works hard in other areas. Students with depression may find it hard to concentrate in class and therefore not retain information. 

Social Integration

Research shows that social integration is one of the key indicators for student retention. Students who integrate with the campus community, make friends and get involved are less likely to drop out. When mental health weighs heavily on a student, social life is one of the things that often needs to be sacrificed. This makes it harder for that social integration to occur, and makes students more likely to drop out before completing their degree.

Future Implications

When a student’s success in school is compromised, their future career outlook can be, too. While grades aren’t the main indicator of a successful career, struggling in school can close some doors that would otherwise be great post-college opportunities. If a student struggles enough, mental health issues can lead to dropping out, meaning they don’t complete their degree. This makes it harder to enter many career fields, especially ones the student was planning on throughout school.

Importance of Mental Health Services for Academic Success

Because mental health plays such a significant role in student success, mental health services need to be well-developed, comprehensive,  and communicated both early and clearly. These can be both unique to the college (counselors available free for all students) or redirect students to outside helplines like ULifeline or SAMHSA. Campus-led initiatives around mental health stigma can be helpful for students who feel it’s embarrassing to ask for help. When colleges tackle that issue, students will feel better about getting the help they need in order to reach their full academic potential. Mental health resources on campus give students a boost on the journey of caring for their mental health.

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