A recent survey found mental health and finances were some of the top stressors for college students.
It is back to school season, and while this can be an incredibly exciting time for some students, it can also be very stressful. College students in particular face a complex challenge: student loan debt. According to a recent nationwide survey of over 1200 college students, mental health (55%) and personal finances (32%) are among the top 5 stressors for this group, joined by physical health (40%), academics (31%), and inflation/rising prices (25%).1 Psychiatric Times sat down with Seli Fakorzi, MA, LPC-S, director of Mental Health Operations at TimelyCare, to discuss the impact of debt on youth mental health and how clinicians can help.
PT: How do you think student loan debt affects college student mental health?
Fakorzi: Students face a mountain of pressures competing for their time and energy daily. A nationwide survey found finances are a top stressor for college students.1 Whether it is one major challenge or a number of competing pressures, when a student becomes overwhelmed, it affects their lives in multiple ways—including their academic performance.
PT: Does the cancellation of student loan debt forgiveness after having it promised worsen the situation?
Fakorzi: Students have been stressed about their financial situations long before a student loan debt forgiveness plan was introduced, and we expect they will remain stressed even after its cancellation.
That is why it is critical to remove financial barriers to care and provide resources for students so they can find the mental health and wellness support they need, when they need it.
PT: How should mental health clinicians address student loan debt with their student patients?
Fakorzi: These tips stand for clinicians supporting college students with any personal financial stress, not just stress from student loan debt:
-Provide resource guidance. Encourage students to make a financial plan and offer them support to find a trusted financial planner or advisor who can help guide them through that process.
-Foster community. Chances are that students are experiencing similar situations—especially when it comes to student loan debt. We know the #1-way students cope and find support for their mental health is through their peers. Encouraging students to connect with peers can make them feel less alone.
-Encourage students to manage stress. This looks different for everyone—for some, that includes practicing self-care. For others, it means hitting the gym a few days a week to exercise. Asking students where they find stress relief and encouraging them to practice that multiple times per week is important.
PT: There have been several landmark Supreme Court decisions surrounding colleges/universities, most recently with affirmative action. Do you think this time of change increases back-to-school stress?
Fakorzi: There will always be stressors out of students’ control and outside influences that will impact student mental health and well-being.
The good news is that colleges and universities realize that the student mental health crisis is far from over, and they continue to invest in resources that help bolster on-campus resources to support student health and well-being, ultimately leading to better engagement and academic performance.
Ms Fakorzi is director of Mental Health Operations at TimelyCare.
1. Mental health, Supreme Court rulings among college students’ top stressors. News release. TimelyCare. August 1, 2023. Accessed August 29, 2023. https://timelycare.com/mental-health-supreme-court-rulings-among-college-students-top-stressors/?cat=news