Policy Brief

Policy Brief 

Public Health Issue: Mental health Illness within University Students in America

By: Latona, Jesica, Deyanira Ahumada, Khanh, and Beatriz

Introduction: Latona

Nature and Magnitude of the Problem: Jesica

Currently the healthcare system needs reform, especially when it comes to the issue of mental health. In America, mental health illness is one of the major health issues with some of the worst mental health related outcomes (The Commonwealth Fund, 2020). The shortage of mental health illness professionals is part of the issue, the other is the willingness to seek help or acknowledgment of mental illness. Mental illness is finally being addressed across the nation due to the COVID19 pandemic. Awareness of mental health is on the rise due to an increase in suicide rates and reported cases of issues with mental health.  The entire population has struggled in some way with pandemic and has had to cope with some form of loss and isolation.

Education has been impacted with students and teachers having to adapt to the immediate change. About 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with some form of mental illness (CDC, 2018). Anxiety disorders, social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and depression are common mental illnesses among college students. About 11.9% of college students suffer from anxiety disorders with depression affecting 7-9% of students (Pedrelli et al., 2014). Those suffering with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia often struggle the most due lack of support. Substance abuse is common among college students and often occurs with mental illness (CDC, 2018). College students are affected by a large range of mental illnesses. In order  to support them and raise awareness, the healthcare system has to provide better support to eliminate further harm to their health and development.

Affected Populations: Deya

Mental health has been a rising topic throughout various groups. Vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, and elders are often exposed at a greater risk than any other group. However, in the midst of a pandemic, COVID-19 has caused a great disaster to the lives of many Americans, especially college students. According to a Kaiser Foundation poll 47% of people who are sheltering in place or formally known as “quarantine” have shown higher negative impacts on health, anxiety, worry and stress. Without the physical and emotional support from an on-campus emotional support team it is harder to fall back to depression and anxiety. Observations were held from a worldwide point of view and concluded that China has the highest rate of college students with some sort of mental illness connected to school and the pandemic. One of our well known institutions, Texas A&M for the past eight years has reported a high amount of students claiming to have some sort of anxiety. In addition, colleges and universities throughout the United States have shown a lower number of enrolled students due to the lack of emotional and financial support to continue pursuing their degree. In the long run, university students are receptive to the societal academic standards and the pressure of pushing through a degree amidst COVID-19 (Effects of COVID-19 on College Students Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study, 2020).

Risk Factors:  Khanh

The risk factors for the problems of Mental Health Illness within University Students in America are depression, stress, and anxiety. In addition, another risk factor is lack of sleep. When students do not get enough sleep due to them worrying about something or having sleep difficulties, it often affects their mental health. Not getting enough hours of sleep can impact the student’s overall health. Many smaller risk factor groups could lead to mental health illness, and they are financial issues, being in a toxic relationship, living in an abusive household, etc (“College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations,” 2015). Not only does it affect the students’ mental illness, but these factors could lead students to commit suicide, poor academic success, drug abuse, or alcohol use. Students who have depression are often at risk because they do not seek help to get treated. Students who deal with stress are at risk because they have to deal with financial, academic, or social issues. Lastly, students who have anxiety are at risk because they worry and panic about their daily lives from time to time, and this is interconnected with students who often deal with stress. The stress that builds up in a student can lead them to have anxiety.

Economic and Social Consequences: Jesica

University students who struggle with mental illness often leave school without completing their degree, commit suicide, or struggle in multiple ways to process day to day (Staff Writers, 2020). Family and friends are affected by the actions and behavior of students who resort to self-harm, which then places a toll on their mental health. Social consequences of mental illness for college students in America include interference with the student’s ability to focus on schoolwork causing low grades and, in most cases, dropping out of school. Without the necessary healthcare to assist students who struggle with mental illness, institutions are also at risk and face low enrollment. A student’s inability to concentrate on schoolwork due to mental illness caused by their environment, lifestyle, or genetics places an economic toll on them as well. The burden of debt while in school, regardless of course completion, is one of the major stressors for students that affects them economically. Failure to obtain higher education places their future at risk minimizing chances of higher earnings.

Priority Action Steps: Beatriz


CDC. (2018, December 12). Learn about mental health. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm

College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. (2015). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4527955/

Effects of COVID-19 on College Studentsâ�� Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study. (2020, September 3). Journal of Medical Internet Research. https://www.jmir.org/2020/9/e21279/

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2014, August 21). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4527955/

The Commonwealth Fund. (2020, May 21). Mental health and substance use in U.S. and 10 other countries. CommonWealth Fund. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2020/may/mental-health-conditions-substance-use-comparing-us-other-countries