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During the fall, many feel a familiar charge of energy as the leaves take on fiery colors and the temperatures cool off. However, for college students, the season’s progression can take on another meaning. As the leaves and temperatures drop, so fades the excitement of the start of the semester. In this void, the stresses of midterms, relationship issues and loneliness can come creeping in.

Stress can take hold at any time for college students, and anxiety is a rising concern. This and other volatile emotions can lead to the life-changing diagnosis of a mental health condition. Luckily, there are ways colleges are stepping up to help students (some involving furry friends), and there are ways students grappling with their mental wellness can find support.

Mental illness is prevalent among young adults. The way the adolescent brain develops and the way teenagers behave make the late-teen years a logical time for mental health conditions to manifest, according to bp Magazine.

Bipolar disorder, in particular, can become apparent in a person’s late teen or early adult years. What revs up the onset of bipolar disorder are some common behaviors for college students. These include adapting unhealthy sleep schedules and using substances such as alcohol and marijuana.

Recent reports have revealed college counselors are seeing a record number of students dealing with mental health issues. As many as 48 percent of college students have had counseling for concerns with their mental wellness.

The good news: colleges are reacting.

Universities and colleges are investing more in mental health and developing “rapid response” programs for students in crisis. Universities are even investing in unconventional strategies during high-stress times, such as providing trained therapy dogs on campus for exam season.

Students are also discovering more ways to get help. Here is some advice college students with bipolar disorder shared with bp Magazine on tackling college life:

  • Break assignments into smaller components: "Put your attention on the task at hand." –Allie
  • Ask for special accommodations by going to a college or university’s disability office: "Know your rights academically. Go to your college’s disability office and try to get a good advocate. Be strong in pushing for what you are entitled to under law (Americans With Disabilities Act, Section 504, or Canadian human rights legislation) Consider what you want to disclose to professors. If the school sends letters to the professors about disability accommodations, find out whether yours is mentioned." –Mark
  • Find an outlet for self-expression: "Writing, art, music—anything that helps work through your emotions and feelings." -Allie
  • Seek peer support: "It’s one thing to get a bunch of ideas and strategies from advisors. But people who have been at your school are going to know what it’s like to go through it, maybe even have ideas about how to deal with some of the professors." –Mark

While the stress of college can seem overwhelming, especially if you are also coping with a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder, it’s important to remember you are not alone.

Even the late Carrie Fisher grappled with her mental health. She had bipolar disorder, and was instrumental in starting bp Magazine. I’ll leave you with some of her inspiring words:

“I’ve had to rise to occasions—not just on the stage—in order to survive, so that bruising is my blessing and those liabilities are my strength now.”

May the “force” of mental wellness be with you, whether you are taking on challenges in the collegiate realm or in everyday life!