Optimal Mental Health Is Important to Your Success

What is mental health? The term “mental health” has different connotations in different contexts. The World Health Organization defines mental health as “the state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Our mental health affects how we interact with our environments; impacts how we feel about ourselves and others; affects how we develop and maintain friendships; and impacts how we develop, learn, and grow as individuals. 

Emotional well-being is foundational to mental health. It refers to our ability to understand ourselves and our responses to challenges and stress. Emotional well-being helps us to recognize, regulate, and manage feelings like anger, sadness, joy, happiness, or hope. 

There is a strong connection between mental health and physical health. Sometimes referred to as the mind-body connection, the way we feel is related to how well our mind and body are working together.  

Our thoughts affect how we feel. Optimistic and hopeful thoughts have a positive impact on our moods and bodies. Pessimistic and hopeless thoughts have a negative impact on our moods and bodies. 

How we feel, both physically and emotionally, affects how we think. When we feel well, we have more positive outlooks and responses to stressors.

How we treat our bodies can positively or negatively affect how we think and feel.
When we take good care of our bodies and are at our healthiest, we feel better both physically and emotionally. 

Academics: Your Mental Health Matters

Your grades are a result of what you think and feel.
Mental health and mental health concerns impact academic achievement, retention and graduation rates. The National College Health Assessment asks thousands of participants each year to report on health experiences that interfere with their academic achievement. The following 10 were most commonly cited during the Fall 2018 survey period. Each relates directly to mental health, coping skills, and balance. 

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep 
  • Depression
  • Upper respiratory illnesses like cold/flu
  • Work
  • Concern for a friend or family member
  • Extracurricular participation
  • Internet use and computer games
  • Relationship difficulties

Students indicated that the above items caused them to:

  • receive a lower grade on an exam or project
  • receive a lower grade in a course
  • receive an incomplete or withdrawal from a course
  • experience a significant disruption in a thesis, research or practicum work 

In addition to the self-reported data above, researchers have also indicated connections between mental health concerns and increased difficulty concentrating on school work, greater levels of test anxiety, less confidence in the ability to be successful academically, and less effectiveness at managing time. Other research has shown that students who specifically experience anxiety or depression report lower GPAs than peers who do not. 

We know that students who are mentally healthy fare better. Finding balance on campus as well as coping strategies for stress that work for you are two great strategies to support your mental health and academics. Seeking care when things get overwhelming is important as well.  Some research specific to college students shows that students who seek care for mental health concerns report gains in academic performance and satisfaction with their work. Students who utilize campus counseling centers also report an increased likelihood of remaining in school as a result.