Mental Health Resources for Online College Students
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If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential, and anyone can use this service. (For more information, see: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/).
DISCLAIMER: The following is intended as an information resource only; we are not a medical organization and cannot give medical advice. If you are experiencing a life-threatening situation, seek medical help or dial 911.
For online college students, mental health can be just as important as academic success.
The pandemic, social isolation, and Zoom fatigue have taken their toll on many college student's mental health. This stress and anxiety can also be exacerbated by issues like systemic inequity, racism, and civil unrest.
Factors like academic stress, financial stress, worries about the future, and conflicts with friends and families can also make it difficult to focus on school. Fortunately, mental health resources for college students can help support distance learners struggling with these challenges.
In a fall 2020 study, 71% of college students reported higher stress and anxiety because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stress affects people in many ways, including intrusive thoughts, trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. Many researchers see mental health as the largest problem for academic success. Even more critically, mental health issues can affect self-worth, physical health, and well-being.
Online students may face additional mental health challenges compared to students attending in person. They may feel more removed from campus and less knowledgeable about mental health resources at their schools.
This guide introduces mental health resources for online college students, including crisis hotlines, online therapy, and college resources. In addition to the resources discussed on this page, you can also check out our resources for Black college students and Asian American college students.
Crisis hotlines provide free, confidential support. With 24/7 access to trained volunteers and counselors, these crisis hotlines help students who are experiencing emotional distress, dealing with trauma, or undergoing mental health crises. If you're struggling, you can reach out to the following crisis hotlines to call, text, or chat with counselors.
|Description||The Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers 24/7 confidential support for anyone in distress. This national network of local crisis centers is always free and confidential. The lifeline connects callers with crisis resources for themselves or their loved ones.|
|Call||English: 1-800-273-8255 | Spanish: 1-888-628-9454 | Deaf + Hard of Hearing: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255.|
|Description||The crisis text line offers free and confidential access to crisis counselors. The service offers text-based mental health support, including crisis intervention. Text the number at any time to connect with trained volunteers. In addition to its U.S. and Canada number, the crisis text line also offers its services in the UK and Ireland.|
|Text||Text HOME to 741741|
|Description||The Trevor Project offers crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ people under 25 years old. Its crisis hotline offers 24/7 support. The Trevor Project also offers a confidential instant messaging service and a text service to connect users with with trained volunteer counselors. All options are free and confidential.|
|Description||The self-harm hotline offers free, confidential support, available 24/7. Trained volunteers talk with callers about their feelings and help them build healthy coping mechanisms. With call and text options, this hotline is always available. The volunteers cab also help callers find professional support to manage their feelings of self harm.|
Mental Health in Online College
Mental health signals can take several forms. In addition to experiencing anxious thoughts or mood swings, you might also notice physical and academic changes related to mental health issues. The following checklist covers a few mental health signs to watch for while in college.
If you notice these signs in yourself, don't sweep them under the rug, particularly if they last for more than two weeks. Instead, reach out for help. Friends, family members, and college advisors can all help you connect with mental health resources for college students.
Mental Health Signals to Be Aware of While in College
In Your Classes
In Your Physical Body
In Your Mental/Emotional Experience
The ULifeline college mental health self-evaluator screens students for mental health issues and connects them with resources at their schools. Screener questions look for symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and alcohol and substance misuse. Self-evaluation results remain confidential.
Explore Your Online, College-Provided Resources
Online colleges offer mental health resources for their students, including counseling services, support groups, and student-organized clubs. These resources help distance learners access virtual counseling sessions and connect with other students for mental health support.
Learners can also reach out to their professors to ask for support if they're struggling. Many professors teaching online classes understand that students may need deadline extensions, extra support, or accommodations due to mental health issues.
To find mental health resources at your school, start with the online student services office or academic advisors, who can connect you with campus resources available to online learners. Many of these services offer confidential or even anonymous support for college students.
Online therapy offers a convenient, accessible way for distance learners to connect with therapists and counselors. These confidential services use licensed and accredited professionals who specialize in specific mental health issues. The following services offer video, call, text, and live chat options for users with mental health challenges.
|Description||Better Help connects users with licensed counselors, therapists, and psychologists. This site pairs people with counselors who match their preferences, goals, and health issues for online therapy sessions.|
|Description||Talkspace connects people with licensed counselors and therapists. With 24/7 access and multiple communication options, such as text, video, and voice messages, individuals can connect with their providers at any time.|
|Description||Pride Counseling helps LGBTQ+ students understand their identity and manage mental health challenges. The site offers online counseling for the LGBTQ+ community in a confidential, discrete, and inclusive way.|
Online articles can be a great mental health resource for college students. The following sites are accessible and aimed at college students, and they include advice about managing mental health challenges and prioritizing mental health on campus. Note, however, that online articles are not a replacement for medical care, and you should seek professional help if you need it.
Social media can negatively affect our mental health, but following Instagram accounts dedicated to improving mental health and supporting people can help mitigate those effects. The following Instagram accounts offer mental health tips, resources for managing stressful situations, and support for diverse issues, including common stressors during college.
Keep in mind that Instagram accounts, apps, and podcasts can certainly be great resources for education and inspiration, but they do not replace professional mental health treatment. Also, be wary of self-diagnosing according to these resources, as many influencers and app creators do not have the level of professional training that licensed therapists or mental health counselors do.
Online college students can use apps to relax, connect with friends and family, and stay informed. Mental health apps can also help students prioritize wellness and create healthy habits. The following apps can help you learn breathing techniques, practice meditation, or curb your drinking.
- Stress & Anxiety Companion
- Worry Watch
- Stop Drinking
Online students can listen to podcasts while cooking, driving to work, or taking a walk. Stepping away from school and taking time to prioritize your mental health can help manage stress levels and anxiety. The following podcasts focus on mental health issues and offer useful advice for college students.
- 10% Happier
- The Mental Illness Happy Hour
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Terrible, Thanks For Asking
- The Happiness Lab
- The Anxiety Coaches
- The Nod
- The Hilarious World of Depression
- The Struggle Bus
Organization and Mental Decluttering Tools
College students often feel overwhelmed with information and struggle with time management. Balancing multiple classes and deadlines while also working can negatively affect your mental health. To offload some of that burden, consider trying organizational and mental decluttering tools like those listed below.
Mental Health Organizations
Many professional organizations offer mental health resources for college students. Online learners, particularly those who they attend out-of-state schools, can benefit from local chapters and events offered by these organizations. The following mental health organizations can all offer support to people struggling with mental health.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many colleges offer low-cost or free therapy through campus counseling centers. Online students can often participate in virtual therapy sessions. In addition, many therapists offer sliding scale rates.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 considers depression a mental impairment if it impedes the ability to complete daily tasks. Most colleges offer accommodations for students with depression.
Students have a right to privacy over their medical records, including mental health records. Colleges cannot make admission decisions based on mental health records.
Yes. College students sometimes need to take mental health breaks from school. Taking a day off for mental health can help students prioritize their well-being.
If your anxiety interferes with your ability to attend class regularly or complete assignments, consider reaching out to your school's counseling center. Many students both experience and manage anxiety while in college.
Motivated students keep both short-term and long-term goals in mind. Motivate yourself by taking breaks or rewarding a solid performance, keeping your career and educational goals in mind, creating healthy routines, and remembering that your health is always a priority.
Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University. After earning her doctorate in early modern European history, Carlton worked as an assistant professor of history at the University of Louisville, where she developed new courses on the history of science, Renaissance Italy, and the witch trials. Carlton has published five peer-reviewed articles in top presses and a monograph with the University of Chicago Press. She also earned tenure with a unanimous vote before relocating to Seattle. Learn more about Carlton's work at genevievecarlton.com.
Reviewed By: Angelique Geehan
Geehan works to support and repair the connections people have to themselves and their families, communities, and cultural practices. She builds intergenerationally, with a commitment to transformative justice, to question and depolarize the beliefs and practices that can lead to isolation and feelings of powerlessness, and to co-create or reclaim ways that can promote resilience and healing from historical and social harms.
A queer, Asian, gender-binary, non-conforming parent, Geehan founded Interchange, a consulting group that offers anti-oppression support through materials and process assessments, staff training, and community building. She organizes as a part of Houston Babywearing Resource, National Perinatal Association's Health Equity Workgroup, the Health and Healing Justice Committee of the National Queer and Trans Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance, the Houston Community Accountability and Transformative Justice Collective, the Taking Care Study Group, QTPOC+ Family Circle, and Batalá Houston.
Reviewed by: Rayelle Davis, M.S Ed., NCC, LCPC
Rayelle Davis is a nationally board certified counselor and a licensed clinical professional Counselor. As a nontraditional student, she earned her associate in psychology at Allegany College of Maryland and went on to earn her bachelor's in psychology attending online at the University of Maryland Global Campus. Rayelle earned her master's in counseling education with a concentration in marriage, couples, and family therapy from Duquesne University. She has taught several undergraduate psychology courses. She is currently a doctoral student and teaching assistant at Duquesne University and practices psychotherapy in Maryland.
Header Image Credit: blackCAT | Getty Images
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