Mental health affects students’ grades


The Appalachian Online

Clare McPherson

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness website, more than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year.

Dr. Dan Jones, director and chief psychologist of Appalachian State University Counseling Services said most mental illnesses manifest for the first time between the ages of 17 and 24.

Along with added stress from school, the age range accounts for the higher number of mental illnesses in college students. Jones said these mental illnesses “impede academic performance most of the time.”

Two common mental illnesses on college campuses include depression and anxiety.

“The symptoms of depression are change in sleeping habits, change in eating habits, difficulty concentrating, loss of motivation and suicidal thinking,” Jones said. “If you have test anxiety and you sit down to take a test and you study your buns off trying to prepare for it, and you sit there and get anxious, your mind goes blank. It’s hard to do well on the test.”

Cassie Griffin, a junior environmental science major with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and severe anxiety said while her prescribed medicine helps her combat her ADHD, her test anxiety is a more difficult matter.

“It’s severe,” Griffin said. “I know what I’m talking about, and I can teach other people, but when I get to the test I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. The [Office of Disability Services] can give you extended time, but that doesn’t help. It’s still a test and there’s still pressure.”

Jones recommended students who struggle with those issues should get help as soon as possible since they can derail their academic careers.

“It is a lot easier to deal with a little problem than to wait for it to become a big one,” Jones said. “Some people go to counseling and they learn skills for coping and soothing themselves. It does take some kind of learning of skills.”

Jones said he would like to remind students that people can’t help it if they have a mental illness, and that intelligence plays no part in a person’s mental health. He also encouraged students to avoid saying or doing anything that stigmatizes mental illness, as that stigma surrounding mental health is what keeps a lot of people from getting help.

“I thinking fighting stigma, and trying to remove the stigma of mental health so that people don’t hide it and are willing to seek help is really important,” Jones said.

Griffin said she agrees that community support plays a big part in helping someone through his or her mental issues.

“Show some kind of care,” Griffin said. “It’s the little things people do that help.”

Story: Clare McPherson, Intern News Reporter