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Loneliness on Campus

February 16, 2012

The Lonely Hipster

Hopefully you had a great Valentine’s Day and got to spend it with people you love, doing something you love. Holidays like Valentine’s Day, though focused on your loved ones, can also bring about feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is not uncommon on college campuses across the country. If you’re feeling lonely this week, you are not alone.

Where does loneliness come from?

The best four years of your life. This phrase is used to describe the college experience, and while this is true for some, it doesn’t paint a full picture of the undergraduate years. College is certainly not an easy transition for many, especially those who are going to school far from home. A completely new set of friends, a new city, and culture shock can make college campuses a lonely place for many students. While freshmen and transfer students are the most likely to suffer from loneliness, it can actually strike at any point during college.

Why does loneliness occur?

Some students find that their freshman year crowd doesn’t quite provide the support and close relationships they had established with friends from home. Others may begin to suffer from loneliness when a close friend goes abroad for a semester, or if their relationship with a significant other ends. Loneliness isn’t limited to physically being alone either—in fact, loneliness can be defined as “a painful and disturbing awareness that you are not feeling connected to others” and can happen in the middle of a crowded room. The pressure to drink and party can also contribute to feelings of loneliness or depression. Those who don’t give in to the pressure to drink may feel isolated from many of their peers. College is also the first time that many students are away from their families and are forced to make a new group of friends. Add the increase in academic challenge and responsibility of living alone and it is easy to understand why students feel lonely.

People ages 18-25 are the most vulnerable group to suffer from mental illness, including depression and anxiety. A survey conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital found that 14% of students at a Boston-area college showed some signs of depressive symptoms. In fact, 85% of colleges are reporting an increase of students with psychological problems over the last five years. These statistics prove that loneliness is not an uncommon problem—you are not alone if you feel this way—however, that doesn’t mean you can’t treat or prevent these feelings.

How can you prevent loneliness?

Loneliness can be prevented! If you’re having trouble making friends or fitting in with the people on your floor, try joining a new club. This can be something similar to what you were involved in during high school, or a completely new interest that you’ve never explored! The great thing about meeting people in these organizations is that you already know you have a common bond. Greek life is another way that many college students are able to find a community within the larger campus. School-sponsored events are another great way to meet friends as well as try new things and maybe even take home some free giveaways. Volunteering, whether through a campus or outside organization, is a fun and rewarding way to make a difference in the community and remind yourself of how much you have to be grateful for. College campuses also have many resources if you are feeling lonely or even depressed, you just have to look. Try talking to your RA or scheduling an appointment with campus counseling services. These people are there to help you—it is their job and they will be able to get you the guidance you need. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are struggling—asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Photo by jintae kim

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