You are in your Freshman dorm room and your parents have just left the state to go back home. Around you are bland walls, undecorated and clinically white. The bed is bare with no fuzzy pillows that your best friend made for you. It feels nothing like home where you have your golden retriever, Daisy, and rambunctious siblings that always keep you busy. It feels nothing like the place where you made so many friends and memories. Slowly, the walls close in, your breathing grows heavy and everything seems to blur.
A door opening and closing snaps you out of it.
Your roommate enters with an eager smile, but dread simmers in your stomach because you know all too well that socializing only burdens you. Throughout the conversation, you feel an invisible tension that your roommate may not even feel, which causes you to be as silent as a mouse. Your roommate does not like that you ignored them, damaging first impressions. Later, as you walk around the unfamiliar campus, there is a pressure in your throat and a burning in your eyes. They are tears, you realize. But because you are in public, you hold it in.
You wake up in the morning and see that your roommate did not bother waking you up. Well, she is not at fault; you were the one who evaded conversations and refused to respond. You sit in the cafeteria at a table by yourself. It has been two weeks already, but you never made any friends because of your social anxiety. Going to classes, studying, eating, bathing, and sleeping are almost muscle memory now. After all, they are the only things going on in your life.
Eventually, it grows difficult. Without friends or anything to make you smile and laugh, emotions seem to slip out of you like sand through fingers. There is a cold emptiness inside and all you can do is cry -- cry everyday and everywhere in places that no one can see like the shower, behind buildings, and empty rooms. However, you do not bother going to see the counselor or any therapist simply because you believe that it is not worth the time or you say that you will go later, but you never do.
College is not what you thought it would be, so you drop out.
Here is the thing:
When an individual holds in any negative emotions, the negativity will fester and grow. However, it is understandable if one does not feel comfortable with sharing their thoughts and feelings to strangers. That is why it can be the people who you thought were the happiest that are actually screaming for help inside. According to Bruffaerts, Ronny et al., “Approximately one in three freshman reports mental health problems in the past year, with internalizing and externalizing problems both associated with reduced academic functioning (2.9-4.7% AYP reduction, corresponding to 0.2-0.3 GPA reduction).” This number is quite a lot if one thinks about it side by side a large number like ten thousand students. It is highly imperative that colleges and universities find a way to counter depression and anxiety as well as many other mental illnesses that students may be struggling with. It is a concern of both health and wellbeing. What our country needs is for all of its academic institutions to have a quality environment where students feel safe internally and externally.
Bruffaerts, Ronny et al. “Mental health problems in college freshmen: Prevalence and academic functioning.” Journal of affective disorders vol. 225 (2018): 97-103. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2017.07.044