How to Manage a Mental Health Condition in College


College life is stressful for most people, but it’s even harder when you are living with a mental health condition. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or another disorder, attending a university can worsen your symptoms. Here’s what you need to know about managing your mental health in college.

Request Reasonable Accommodations

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, colleges must provide reasonable accommodations for students with a learning disability or mental health disorder. However, it is up to you to make the request and provide documentation about your disorder.

Your college should have a disabilities office that helps coordinate accommodations. They can guide you through the process. Reach out to the office before you even arrive on campus, if possible. The sooner you receive accommodations, the better you will be able to manage your condition and succeed in college.

Types of Accommodations Available

There are a range of accommodations that can help you succeed in college. These may include:

  • A reduced course load
  • Substituting one course for another
  • Priority registration
  • Access to transportation services
  • Extended deadlines and extra time for tests
  • Taking tests in a separate room with fewer distractions
  • Tutoring and study skills training
  • Using note takers and recording devices
  • The ability to change rooms or roommates, or even have a single room

Be sure to advocate for yourself when requesting accommodations. If you are unsatisfied with your current accommodations, talk to the disabilities office or your academic advisor.

Visit the School Counseling Center

Your school’s counseling center will not be able to provide long-term care, but they can help you access mental health care in the community. You can contact the counseling center for referrals, community resources, and crisis resources. Some colleges even maintain a crisis hotline for students. And if you need to talk to someone between sessions with your regular therapist, school counselors may offer drop-in sessions.

If you start experiencing mental health symptoms while in college, the counseling center is a great starting point to learn more about your condition.

Create a List of Mental Health Resources

It’s always best to be prepared, especially when it comes to your mental health disorder. Create a list of resources that you can turn to if you have an immediate need or crisis situation. Some important resources to keep in mind:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
  • Crisis text line: text HOME to 741741
  • Names and contact information for key support people (friends, family, classmates, etc.)
  • Contact information for your doctor, therapist, and/or psychiatrist
  • Addresses for local hospitals and mental health clinics
  • A list of healthy coping mechanisms, including calming activities that can be substituted for unhealthy behaviors

Establish a New Routine

Physical and mental health are connected. By taking care of your physical needs, you can better manage your mental health condition. It’s important to establish a routine as soon as possible once you start college. Create a reasonable schedule with consistent bedtimes, meal times, study sessions, and breaks. Also allow some flexibility in your schedule. You want to be able to enjoy all that college life has to offer while maintaining a sense of stability.

Create an On-Campus Support System

As you make new friends and spend time with classmates, you’ll naturally start to build a support system. You may want to have a discussion about your mental health needs with some trusted people on-campus. It’s up to you how much you disclose about your condition, but ask if you can reach out to them when you’re struggling.

Find a Mental Health Care Provider Near Your Campus

If you are attending college far from home, you will need to find a new mental health care provider to help you manage your condition. Ask your current provider for a referral, do some research on your own, or contact your college’s counseling services. It’s important to keep attending therapy sessions and taking any prescribed medications throughout college.

If you’re attending college in eastern Pennsylvania, The Light Program has several locations in the area. We also offer online therapy for anyone who lives in Pennsylvania. To learn more or make an appointment, call  (610) 644-6464.