According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults have suffered or currently are suffering with symptoms of a mental illness. Mental health affects the way we think, act and feel, including how we handle stress or relate to others.
Some factors that contribute to mental health are difficult to control, such as facing socio-economic hardships, dealing with trauma, alienation or coping with biological factors such as chemical imbalances or medical conditions. However, there are some actions we can take to improve our emotional, psychological and social well-being, like practicing meditation, creating art, exercising and even learning.
How does learning contribute to mental health?
Mental health workers and researchers have found that we can support our mental health by connecting with others, developing a sense of meaning or purpose, building coping skills and having a goal or hobby. One way to engage in all of these activities is through learning and education. Research shows that education can improve mental health by broadening your intellectual, social and emotional horizons. Attending school can also expand your knowledge, help you meet new people, further your goals, improve your career and even help you build better coping mechanisms.
Studies of the relationship between education and mental health have shown that higher levels of education can also help graduates gain important structural and economic advantages. For example, data compiled of workers aged 25+ shows that education leads to higher income, with bachelor’s degree holders earning an average of $26,104 more per year than those with a high school diploma. While money can’t buy happiness, it can alleviate many stressors that contribute to mental health problems and allow you the freedom to pursue your interests.
Education can also improve mental health by providing a sense of accomplishment. Some find that completing assignments and earning a degree gives them a feeling of pride and a boost in morale. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Stephanie Smith, learning new skills can be great for mental health. College can allow you to achieve small successes while exploring your interests—from creative to academic to athletic. In the process, you can also discover the activities you find meaningful and enjoyable. For example, if you always wanted to learn an instrument or understand world history, education can help you do that.
Isn’t going to college with a mental illness more difficult?
It’s true that mental health conditions can affect your ability to study and learn, and traditional college students may face additional stress from first-time experiences with working, being away from family, having unfamiliar interactions or dealing with peer pressure. Luckily, resources are available for those who seek out assistance and treatment. In fact, many colleges offer support groups, counseling and other resources for students struggling with their mental health.
Alternately, some find that choosing a flexible online college program provides them with the accommodation needed to manage their mental health. For example, Pearson Accelerated Pathways offers self-paced online learning that allows students to take mental health breaks whenever needed, along with the ability to study from anywhere – including locations that may offer emotional support or enhance wellness. Attending college online can also alleviate the stressful tasks of separation and individuation from family and friends. In particular, working adults find online college options beneficial as it gives them the flexibility to complete and enjoy their studies even while juggling a busy schedule, raising kids or managing multiple responsibilities.
However, some find taking classes online to be less than ideal, especially in the Covid era when the effects of isolation on society have become more apparent. It’s important to know what matters most to you and your mental health, and then choose a learning path that best supports your wellness. It’s also important to remember that even highly successful people have found themselves struggling to manage mental illness while pursuing an education and other important goals. You are not alone in your struggle, so be sure to check in with others in your support circle, including mental health workers.
Benefits of learning outweigh stressors
Overall, even with the pressures of college, learning is good for our minds and essential to our existence. Most find that gaining an education outweighs the stress of assignments, deadlines and other pressures associated with school. In addition, learning benefits our sense of wellbeing by increasing self-esteem, encouraging interaction, fostering open-mindedness, aiding in discovery and providing a sense of purpose. It helps us view the world from a range of perspectives, which makes us more adaptable to new situations as they arise and contributes to our ability to manage mental health challenges.
At Pearson Accelerated Pathways, we understand that the onset of a mental illness can be debilitating. Seeking help is something we support and value, and our academic counselors and success coaches are always here to help you find flexible ways to advance your educational goals while managing your mental health. We believe learning should give you the opportunity to nourish your mind free from stress and anxiety. That’s why we offer flexible, self-paced, affordable degree programs that can be completed anytime, anywhere.
Ready to start a learning journey that you’ll love? Reach out to our supportive academic counselors!