Picture of a person with face in hands.

“Depression” by ryan melaugh is licensed under CC BY 2.0


According to a recent article in The Guardian, college students today are 5 times more likely to suffer from mental health disorders than college students a decade ago. Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders can impact a person’s ability to engage in everyday activities. If you’re an online student with a full course load and personal and professional obligations, mental health disorders can be devastating. However, they can don’t have to derail your academic progress. Over the past 7 years, I’ve helped countless students manage their mental health issues and achieve their academic goals. I’ve also pursued two graduate degrees while dealing with acute anxiety and depression.

Here are some tips for coping with mental health problems while in school:

Get Treatment

If you break your arm, you go to the Emergency Room. If you have the flu, you take some medicine. If you are physically sick, you seek the appropriate treatment. You want to do the same if you are dealing with a mental illness. Most mental illnesses can be treated with a combination of therapy and medication. If you don’t have a lot of money, you may be able to take advantage of services at free clinics. You can also see if your university offers any free or discounted mental health services. Your mental health is important; make getting help a priority.

Talk to Your Advisor

Advisors usually have their fingers on the pulse of the university. They know all about the resources a school has to offer, and they can point you in the right direction. They can also help you talk with your professors about your mental health issues. You may be hesitant to share your struggles with a member of the university. However, an advisor is a great person to have on your side.

Contact the Disability Resource Center

All universities have a disability office or an accessibility center. These offices aim to give students with documented disabilities the support and flexibility they need to thrive. Most schools will accommodate individuals with mental health diagnoses like depression, bipolar disorder, and general anxiety order. So, if you are suffering from one of these illnesses, be sure you contact your school’s disability office to see if they can assist you!

Create a Schedule

On my worst days, the smallest task can seem insurmountable. That’s how mental illness works – it paralyzes you. The best way to deal with this paralysis is to create a very rigid and detailed work schedule. Don’t give yourself an opportunity to fall into the abyss.

Keep Your Expectations Realistic

Most students are perfectionists. However, when you’re fighting for your very survival, you don’t have the luxury of being a perfectionist. You just have to get through the day. Keep your expectations realistic, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

Build a Personal Support System

Humans need connection, support, and encouragement. So, be sure you have a support system in place, people you can call whenever you need a kind word, a motivational speech, or a shoulder to cry on. Battling a mental illness can be overwhelming. Battling a mental illness while taking challenging online courses can feel impossible. Make sure you have people in your corner who can provide you with the inspiration you need to move forward.