If anxiety had a color, it would be red.

Red for restless nights kept up by worry.

Red for fear and uncertainty of the unknown.

For a lot of students, during the pandemic, red is their new normal.

For me, red is my reality.

This realization first became apparent during my first year of college, as I grappled with why my nerves would get the best of me and would be unable to eat or sleep.

Anxiety crept into my life without a warning. It made everything more difficult.

I wanted it gone. I hated the color red.

Fast forward a couple of years.

As a junior in college, I still struggle with anxiety, but on a lesser scale.

In the present day, I consider myself lucky because I received the proper resources to cope.

Having said this, I know that I am not alone in my struggle with anxiety and mental health.

In 2019, the American Psychological Association found that around one in three college first-years struggled with a mental health illness.

In addition to this, 27% of these students were diagnosed with depression while 57.7% of students felt an “overwhelming anxiety” that year.

With a large percentage of students battling with mental health-related illnesses each year, colleges should take action to provide support for students. This could become a reality if colleges provide better mental health facilities and resources that are easily accessible, affordable and better targeted for college students.

In doing so, college students will be better equipped for success and will have a more positive mindset going forward.

The importance of mental health tends to be overlooked on college campuses because of its tendency to be “invisible.”

A study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that only 9% of college students in the United States seek professional help for their mental health.

One of the biggest reasons college students do not reach out for help is because they are unsure where to find it.

If colleges were to integrate mental health spaces into students’ common areas like dormitories, athletic facilities or student centers, then it would reduce the stigma associated with mental health and add convenience for students.

While many colleges advocate for the importance of academic readiness, financial aid or even a sense of belonging, many lack the resources to provide students with affordable therapy and counseling sessions.

Because of this, many college students are denied therapy and are waitlisted for weeks or months on end just to receive an appointment.

To change this trend, colleges should start by providing physical and online resources for students that will direct them to the proper care or facilities to fit their mental health needs.

Goshen College, a liberal arts college in Goshen, Indiana, is a great example of this.

At GC, the first eight therapy appointments are free.

In addition, mental health resources are dispersed throughout campus, and professors are provided with helpful contacts for students’ use if needed.

Several student-led groups have also emerged over the years to create awareness for mental health.

Making resources that are better targeted for students will increase the number of students who choose to visit a mental health facility and get the help they need.

In order to do so, colleges should begin by including mental health resources or guides on their website.

By having a clear website that lays out where to find therapy or people to talk to, students will be more equipped to tackle mental health challenges that come their way.

As a timid, first-year college student, I can remember feeling alone.

With the stress of college-level classes, academics and the pressure of making friends, I felt overwhelmed and consumed by anxiety.

Yet, if I would have known the normality of my situation, my perception of others and the world around me would have changed.

Likewise, if colleges chose to provide resources upfront for mental health, it would not only improve their students’ ability to learn and function but would also create a better environment for the overall college experience.

Creating affordable resources that are incorporated into students’ daily routes will also benefit colleges in the long run.

In doing so, colleges will find that their students will be more capable of tackling academic tasks or other challenges in life.

As a college first-year, I hated the color red.

But as a junior, I have grown to accept it as part of who I am.

Anna Smucker is a junior graphic design major with minors in Bible and religion, and music. She was born and raised in Goshen, and is an active member of the Voices of the Earth choir.  She has been a part of several musicals over the years in the theater department.