Mental Health Education Scholarship – Improving the College Mental Health Crisis through Alternative Medicine

Name: Angel Jacob Garcia
From: San Bernardino, CA
Votes: 0

Improving the College Mental Health Crisis through Alternative Medicine

Improving
the College Mental Health Crisis through Alternative Medicine


In
the past, mental health was usually kept behind closed doors. But in
modern times, there is continuous efforts in speaking out about
mental health issues, and there are always new methods that are being
used to treat said issues. It’s great that more people are coming
forward, but this means that we as a society need to be developing
better ways to treat those who need help. Western countries, such as
the United States, focus especially on using different types of
medications to “solve” these mental health problems. On the other
hand, Eastern medicine traditions seeks to heal the person’s state
of mind through alternative methods, such as acupuncture and
meditation. Not to say that Eastern societies don’t use medications
as well, but they are able to utilize alternative methods so that
they do not have to rely solely on doctor’s prescriptions. While
every type of person can suffer from mental health issues, I am going
to focus on young adults because I can relate to the issues that they
face in modern times. College students are under a lot of pressure to
perform well in school and they are also undergoing a period of
immense personal growth during that same time. I believe that Eastern
and Western medical traditions can be used synergistically in order
to promote better states of mental health in young people across the
world. 

The
Acupuncture Evidence Project is a literature review of the clinical
research being done on acupuncture therapy. The review found that
acupuncture could prove useful in treating a variety of mental
problems, such as anxiety and insomnia, beyond just being a placebo
1.
One of the ways it does this is through improving the heart rate
variability (HRV) of patients. HRV is the variability of the heart’s
rate in different environments, and the variability results in an
increase in health
2.
Even if acupuncture is not capable of fully healing someone from
mental health issues, it is a cost-effective way to try to improve
someone’s mental state and has relatively low side effects, if any.
Meditation is another alternate treatment, and it has been proven to
be capable of making physical changes to one’s brain that are
associated with emotional processing
3.
Mediation can have a lot of benefits depending on the individual,
including decreased levels of anxiety and depression
4.
Medications and hospital visits can have steep costs, especially in
the U.S., and they are not even 100% effective. Utilizing alternative
medical treatments is a low-risk, high reward option for those that
need additional help in solving their mental illnesses. 

Young
adults can suffer from the pressure they face in school and problems
can arise from the various periods of transition they undergo in
their life. Additionally, a lot of young people are not even aware
that they may have a mental health problem because they have not yet
had the chance to receive a proper diagnosis. A study from 2018
showed that there is an increasing trend in the utilization of mental
health services on college campuses, most likely due to the decreased
stigma of mental illnesses in the current times
5.
While it is a good thing that more people are now reaching out for
help, this means that college resources are being stretched thin due
to lack of funding. Depending on the university, students could have
to wait between a few days to several weeks for an appointment with a
mental health professional
6.
Additionally, a lot of the students that are reaching out to these on
campus services are already on medications, up to 25%
7.
This shows that many times, medication can not work as the sole
treatment method. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use
and Health, “3.4 million young adults aged 18 to 25 in 2018 with
past year AMI (any mental illness) perceived an unmet need for mental
health care in the past year”
8.
The point of all this data is to show that counseling/medication
cannot fully heal a person from their mental illness, especially
those that are in serious periods of transition. A possibility for
aid can come from eastern medicine traditions, such as the previously
mentioned acupuncture or meditation. While these medical traditions
do not act on the chemical imbalances that may be present in one who
has a mental illness, it is possible that the impact they make is
more on the spiritual level. They work to treat the entire person
instead of just the illness, and the healing from the treatments are
not always easily quantifiable. 

We
need to be doing everything possible to ensure everyone’s mental
health needs are adequately met. It is imperative that we continue
experimenting and researching these alternative medical treatments in
order to improve the way we treat mental illnesses. In addition, we
should be making continuous efforts to make these treatments more
accessible and affordable, ensuring that everyone can get proper
treatment regardless of their background. On the individual level, we
should strive to find what works best for us and be willing to try
new things. We are all complex individuals and we should design our
treatments with that in mind. What works for one person may not work
for another, but as long as we continue fighting against the stigma
of mental illnesses, we can ensure everyone is comfortable in voicing
their individual needs.

Works
Cited

  1. The
    Acupuncture Evidence Project – A Comparative Literature Review
    2017 – Acupuncture.org.au. 2017; 1–81.

  2. Guo
    ZL, Longhurst JC. Expression of c-Fos in arcuate nucleus induced by
    electroacupuncture: relations to neurons containing opioids and
    glutamate.

    Brain Research
    .
    2007;1166:65–76.

  3. Lazar
    SW, Kerr CE, Wasserman RH, et al. Meditation experience is
    associated with increased cortical thickness.
    Neuroreport.
    2005;16(17):1893–1897. doi:10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19

  4. Kabat-Zinn
    J, Massion AO, et al. Effectiveness of a Meditation-Based Stress
    Reduction Program in the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders.

    Am J Psychiatry
    .
    1992;149:7.

  5. Lipson
    SK, et al. Increased Rates of Mental Health Service Utilization by
    U.S. College Students: 10-Year Population-Level Trends (2007–2017).
    Psychiatric
    Services
    .
    2018;70(1):60-63. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.201800332

  6. Thielking,
    Megan. “As Mental Health Crises Soar, Colleges Can’t Meet Student
    Needs.”
    STAT,
    7 Dec. 2017.

  7. Mistler
    BJ, et al.
    The
    Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors
    Annual Survey
    .
    2012; 142-145. 

  8. Substance
    Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019).

    Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States:
    Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

    (HHS Publication No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54). Rockville, MD:
    Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse
    and Mental Health Services Administration.


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