Just because something is in the back of your mind, that doesn’t mean it’s not effecting you on a daily basis. Many of us deal with the dread of student debt piling up throughout our college experience. How is that affecting our mental health? Read on to find out!
STUDENT DEBT AND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
by Camara Chea
Whether you’re a seasoned senior nearing graduation or a fresh first year finishing up your third quarter, something stressful may be looming in your mind’s eye: the burden of your student loans. For some people, taking out loans is an essential action in order to attend college. Financial stress is definitely a real thing for many college students. On top of academic worries, interpersonal matters, housing and food concerns, environmental and political stress, and general mental health issues, worries about debt are yet another stressor for college students who have had to take out loans to finance their higher education.
Some feelings associated with this financial burden may be hopelessness, fear, anxiety, depression, sadness, shame, internalized stigma, and an inability to focus or concentrate. A quick Internet search reveals many research studies that suggest how student loan debt can negatively impact one’s mental health, in addition to physical health as well.
As someone who will soon be graduating college, I do find myself often worrying about my debt. Since I will be in graduate school for several years, when and how will I ever pay it off? Despite earning several scholarships and working as a Resident Advisor for two years to help offset the cost, I have accumulated a debt in the double digit thousands range. However, I do want to acknowledge my privilege: I have been fortunate in that my parents have been able to contribute to my college education and help out what they can.
I know that there are many people whose families were not able to provide financial support and that there are those who have had to work full-time jobs or several part-time jobs in order to sustain their education. Moreover, there are those, due to legal and political restrictions, who are not even able to have access to federal students loans and have instead had to resort to private loans, which typically come at a higher interest rate.
So, when your debt becomes this heavy thing that you carry with you, and which begins to have detrimental affects on your well-being, what can you do to lessen this load? I want to share some articles with you that I think may be helpful.
- The first piece, “The Mental and Physical Toll of Student Loans,” (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/02/the-mental-and-physical-toll-of-student-loans/385032/) presents an overview of research findings related to the psychological and physiological effects of student debt.
- The second one, “How Your Student Debt Can Make You Sick And Depressed,” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/paigecarlotti/2014/06/13/how-your-student-debt-can-make-you-sick-and-depressed/#75bcebe1555e) similarly touches upon the implications of various research studies in this area.
- “Anger, Depression And Student Loan Debt: 5 Ways Millennials Can Let Go Of Money Shame” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/melodywilding/2016/10/24/stressed-by-student-loans-5-pain-free-ways-to-deal/#18031c4a29b5) gives readers several concrete ways they can effectively approach their student loan debt.
- “How to De-Stress from Student-Loan Debt” (http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2012/05/11/how-to-de-stress-from-student-loan-debt) provides different strategies individuals can do on the daily to maintain their stress levels.
I know some people may believe otherwise, but, at the end of the day, I feel that my student loans will have enabled me to experience higher education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and will lead to my greater social mobility in the future. There will be trade-offs and the road to paying it off won’t be easy, but with knowledge, preparation, and some resilience, I know I will be okay–and you will be too. Just remember, the amount of money you owe does not determine or undermine your worth as a person.