The late-teen years are a vulnerable period for the onset of mental illness, whether you’re at college or not, because of the way the adolescent brain develops and teenagers typically behave. According to the NIMH statistics, 2.9% of adolescents had bipolar disorder, and 2.6% had severe impairment.
Graduating from school, getting endless credits, and numerous personal issues may be very stressful. It is not uncommon when a pack of unresolved problems leads to depression.
This is the first stage where you should keep your eyes peeled. Because up to one-third of the 3.4 million children and adolescents with depression in the US may be experiencing the early onset of bipolar disorder. That’s why it’s crucial to be able to recognize the signs of bipolar disorder.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder involves atypical mood swings, polar mood disorders – episodes of mania, hypomania, and depression. It is associated with a surge of energy and the onset of devastation. These mood swings are very sharp, they cannot but be noticed by others.
During an episode of mania, the mood is overly elevated, the person is hyperactive, literally gushing with ideas. You may experience the following symptoms:
- Excessive talkativeness;
- Little need for sleep;
- Increased self-esteem;
- Risky behavior;
- Excessive waste of money;
- Binge drinking, drug use;
- Impulsive decisions, actions.
Hypomania is similar to mania, but its manifestations are less pronounced. In this state, a person feels great, they are satisfied with their productivity. It is difficult for others to recognize the disorder in an elevated mood but friends and relatives may notice that something is wrong.
During a depressive episode, a person feels unhappy and depressed, they have no hope that anything could improve in the future. The common symptoms are as follows:
- Uncontrollable bouts of crying;
- Feeling worthless and hopeless;
- Excessive feelings of guilt;
- Sleep disturbance;
- Isolation from loved ones and friends;
- Changes in eating habits (increased or decreased appetite).
It’s considered normal for anyone to experience the above symptoms to some degree occasionally. The symptoms of bipolar disorder are still stronger and can be seen daily for at least 1 week.
Scientists consider the connection of the disease with such provoking factors:
- Genetic predisposition and heredity (the disease is ten times more likely to affect the children of parents who have the disorder);
- Head trauma;
- Hormonal imbalance;
- Traumatic life events – severe stress, loss (bipolar disorder develops as a defense mechanism).
Top 5 Challenges Bipolar College Students Face
Bipolar disorder can deteriorate significantly during college years. Bipolar college students are away from home for the first time, leading to adjustment issues such as loneliness, changes in sleep schedule, daily habits, and the abuse of drugs or alcohol.
This list mentions the main challenges students with bipolar disorder face:
Inability to Focus
Bipolar college students usually have difficulty concentrating. Impaired memory and racing thoughts may aggravate the situation. Physical agitation makes learners get easily distracted and jump from one task to another. As a result, productivity often suffers.
Experiencing physical or mental pressure is a common motive to worsened maniac, hypomanic, or depressive states. This makes it difficult to cope with developing symptoms including sleep disorders or loss of interest at college.
Decision Making Disruptions
Risky decisions may result in reckless spending, increased sexual activity, or abuse of substances. When people are depressed, even minor decisions such as what to eat for dinner can be overwhelming. All may negatively influence students’ learning.
It’s difficult for people with bipolar disorder to come out of their shells. In this way, contacting other students, participating in events, or engaging in group projects at college can be troublesome.
Changes in Sleep Schedule
Students with bipolar disorder often suffer from moderate sleep disorders in the form of difficulty falling asleep and lack of deep sleep. A disrupted sleep schedule may interfere with the class schedule, forcing students to skip classes.
Support Organizations & Resources
Bipolar disorder doesn't get better on its own. Getting treatment from a mental health professional can help students get their symptoms under control. Bipolar college students can get support and treatment in many ways, including the options listed below.
Counseling is a very valuable tool in coping with Bipolar Disorder. Talk therapies can help the individual with bipolar disorder to stabilize daily routines, deal effectively with stress, be vigilant of encroaching symptoms, and develop effective methods of communicating.
Bipolar college students can consult disability center specialists for support. Disability centers will tell what possible accommodations these students are qualified for and what benefits they can receive.
Student Health Services
Students have access to a variety of health services that make recommendations and programs for mental health maintenance. Healthcare providers help you keep your mood steady while still being able to do your best thinking.
Advocacy and Support Groups
Advocacy groups increase awareness and can act as negotiators. College support groups encourage stress reduction, exercise, treatment, and sharing experience.
Mental Health Centers
These centers (such asMental Health America) provide professional support hiring mental health specialists. They will help prevent the deterioration of the illness and provide necessary treatment for those in need.
Online Support Groups
Students with bipolar disorder may get support in online groups (e.g.HealthfulChat,bphope). Such sites may include articles, forums, blogs, videos, chat rooms to raise awareness, share experience, and provide peer support.
Mobile Assistive Apps
Mobile apps help students with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues manage their behavior. Using apps likeSAM,MoodPanda,RescueTime help manage mental wellbeing, track your mood, be more focused and productive.
Scholarships for Students with Bipolar Disorder
Students with bipolar disorder should remember that besides physiological support they can apply for a financial one as well. Taking a part-time job is often problematic.
In this way, scholarships appear as a great help to pay for college. Here’s a list of 15 scholarships that students with bipolar disorder can apply for:
- The Baer Reintegration Scholarship (amount varies) requires students with bipolar disorder to be currently receiving medical treatment and be actively involved in rehabilitative or reintegration efforts.
- Andrew Q. Peschard Memorial Scholarship ($1,000) is offered to San Mateo County high school graduates who demonstrated resiliency in their mental health journey.
- National Scholarship for College Students with Disabilities ($2,000) is available to full-time college students or students whose part-time attendance is due to their disability. This is not available to high school students.
- Jack Scura Fund ($7,500) is open to disabled high school seniors who will be enrolling in a New Jersey college or are currently enrolled. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.2.
- The John Lepping Memorial Scholarship ($5,000) is available to qualified students seeking to further their education by attending college. Applicants must reside in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania.
- Tommy Tranchin Award (up to $1,500) offers a scholarship to students in North Texas in grade level 8-12 who have shown promise or passion in a chosen field of interest.
- Wells Fargo Scholarship Program for People with Disabilities ($2,500) requires applicants to be a high school senior planning to enroll, or already enrolled and have a minimum GPA of 3.0.
- Carolyn Balsa Hancock Memorial Scholarship (up to $1,500) is given to someone who best emulates Mrs. Hancock's inspiring love of life and hard work. Applicants must be in the Special Education Program at the East Side Union High School District and present a plan of vocational or academic training after high school.
- Google Lime Scholarship ($10,000) supports students with disabilities offering scholarships to current or soon-to-be college students. Applicants must pursue a degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a degree in a closely related technical field.
- Jared Monroe Foundation Scholarship ($500-$2,300) is available to full-time college students. Applicants must have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and currently receive treatment.
- The Buckfire Law Scholarship ($1,000) is offered to full-time college students with a disability diagnosis. Applicants must be enrolled at an accredited college or university within the United States.
- The Lillian Cooper Droke Memorial Scholarship ($5,000) is awarded to a student who is enrolled in college or technical training and who has been diagnosed with a mental illness.
- NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship ($5,625) is available to students with disabilities interested in pursuing a career in the communications, media, or entertainment industry. Applicants aren’t required to disclose their disability.
- AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship ($1,000) is open to graduate students and full-time undergraduate students with disabilities. Preference is given to students majoring in public health, disability studies, or health promotion.
- John Weir Academic Scholarship ($4,000) is available to high school seniors who have a significant disability. Applicants must be looking to attend a trade school, a two-year college, or a four-year college.
Additional Support Resources
Bipolar college students can also receive support by consulting the following resources:
- Active Minds advocates encourage their peers to learn about, talk about, and seek help for mental health issues just as they would for a physical issue, without shame or silence.
- Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, high-quality text-based mental health support and crisis intervention to support people in their moments of need.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness provides advocacy, education programs, personal support, and public awareness events and activities.
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offers peer-based, wellness-oriented support online 24/7, in local support groups, in audio and videocasts, or printed materials.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
- Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator can search for treatment information by address, city, or ZIP code.
- The Treatment Advocacy Center promotes laws, policies, and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the development of innovative treatments for severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses.
- MentalHealth.gov provides one-stop access to U.S. government mental health and mental health problems information.
- 7 Cups is a website that provides therapy in the form of ongoing support, guidance, and counseling from over 180 licensed professional therapists.
- National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery provides guides, webinars, and conferences to ensure that people have a major voice in the implementation of health care, mental health, and social policies at the state and national levels.
- DailyStrength is a free forum that provides emotional support in dealing with various medical conditions and life challenges.
Everyone will agree that students with bipolar disorder are even more vulnerable in a college environment. However, where there's a will there's a way.
There are plentiful resources, on- and off-campus organizations across the country providing support for bipolar college students. This guide highlighted essential resources so that students could use them to improve their well-being and academic performance.