Mental Health At Colleges

Almost half of all college-age adults have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, and college students are seeking psychological help in unprecedented numbers. According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health’s (CCMH) 2016 Annual Report, there was a 5 percent increase in college enrollment, nationwide, accompanied by 30 percent increase in demand for mental-health services, between 2010 and 2016.

According to the CCMH report, of those students in treatment at college counseling centers, approximately:

1 in 2 has received psychological services in the last five years.

1 in 10 has been hospitalized before for psychiatric issues.

1 in 4 report engaging in self-injuring behavior (e.g., cutting).

1 in 3 has seriously considered suicide.

The American Psychological Association calls the state of mental health on college campuses a growing crisis. A nationwide survey in 2010 said that 44 percent students seeking help on campus had severe psychological problems, a sharp increase from 16 percent in 2000¹ .

Students with mental illness – depression, anxiety, trauma or other conditions – may struggle to succeed in college. And they may affect others, including classmates, roommates, faculty and staff with potentially disruptive and even dangerous behavior

MINDFULNESS has been shown to build Resilience, Reduce stress and enhance Emotional and Mental balance, so people can live a more productive and meaningful life.

Research has shown that Mindfulness reduces the size of the Amygdala which is the center of stress and anxiety in the brain.

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The four qualities of the Open Heart are:

1. Equanimity, is the ability to have a balanced and equal concern for others. It is a powerful and precious practice of living mindfully. It is the antidote for attachment and aversion.

2. Loving Kindness, is the sincere desire for yourself and others to be genuinely happy. 

It is the antidote for hatred.

3. Compassion, is cultivating the deep desire for yourself and others to be free from suffering. 

It is the antidote for cruelty and ill will.

4. Empathetic Joy, is rejoicing in the virtuous activities and rewards of others. 

It is the antidote for jealousy and envy.

Source B. Alan Wallace

Physiological Definition of Stress

July 18, 2015

What is stress?

Stress is the perception by our body, of a Physical or Psychological threat.

How does our body react to Stress?

The “Fight or Flight” response is the most prominent one.

Our Mind triggers a series of biochemical reactions, to get our body ready to deal with the Stressful event.

Neurotransmitters are released, like Epinephrine, Endorphins, and Cortisol, which have receptors on most cells of our body, affecting them in a positive or negative way. Stress could be Positive = Eustress, when it is constructive, short lived and pleasant. The fight or flight response is often associated with increased performance and success in business or before an athletic event.

Distress is negative stress when it results in pain and anxiety, and the perception that one’s response is inadequate to cope with the physical or psychological threat.

• Threats include major life events.

• Trauma, accidents, disasters.

• Physical and emotional abuse.

• Environmental stress.

Neurotransmitters/Our Internal Communication network

July 27, 2015

How does our mind communicate with the rest of our body?

 How do our emotions affect our immune system?

 How does our behavior influence our health?

It is through Neurotransmitters. What are Neurotransmitters? They are the messengers of our thoughts and emotions. We call them “Psychosomatic communication network”.  They are Neuropeptides, and with their receptors, are the biochemical correlates of our thoughts and emotions. Neuropeptides are made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins. When the "Fight or Flight response" is triggered during stress, Neurotransmitters and hormones, Like Epinephrine ( Adrenaline), Norepinephrine, Endorphins, Dopamine, Cortisol, Interleukins, and Immunoglobulins, can increase or decrease in our body depending on the kind of stress. Receptors to these Transmitters, are present in almost every cell of our body. So every organ is affected. 

If is is a positive stress (Eustress): Our performance may increase for a short period of time: Compassion and caring increase certain types of Immunoglobulin in our body and enhance our immunity against disease. Laughter increases Endorphins in our body and creates better pain control.

If it is a negative stress (Distress), it can create negative effects on our body.

• If the fight or flight response is elicited frequently in a person who cannot fight or run, it can cause:

• High B.P. (Because of increase adrenaline)

• Heart attacks.

• Anxiety or/and depression.

. Decrease immunity.

• Migraines or chronic pain.

• Cancer, and other disorders.

Positive Effects of Dopamine and Endorphins

November 18, 2017

All addictive substances stimulate Dopamine, like alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine, LSD, THC, and opioids.

Opioids stimulate Dopamine and also activate the opioid receptors.


Dopamine is secreted when we have sex, or eat a good meal, it is our primary reward system. This is what we live for (stimulus driven pleasure).

Endorphins and opioid receptors enable us to achieve a goal (short term), and maximize our ability to achieve the reward. This is our “Success Mechanism”.

They also decrease pain (minimal effect), increase motivation, increase confidence, increase reward (by stimulating excretion of Dopamine)

Endorphins also reduce depression and anxiety, and increase warmth-liking (interpersonal bonding) sensations.

Mindfulness has been shown to increase Endorphins and Dopamine in the brain, and as a result increase motivation, and confidence.

Chronic Opioid use for pain, can destroy the Success Mechanism, and sometimes can cause irreversible brain changes, and addiction.

Opioids also have Immunosuppressive effect, and can be detrimental to our health. 

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is changing its guidelines for pain control. Mindfulness is a good modality for pain control.

November 15, 2017

The current epidemic with drug addiction and prescription drug abuse, has lead the CDC to issue new guidelines for pain control. The United States has 4.6% of the world's population, and we use 80% of the world's opioids.

The CDC stated that nonpharmacologic therapy and nonopioid therapy are preferred for chronic pain. 

Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience. Acute pain is a symptom but chronic pain is a disease, and sometimes opioids may make it worse. When we are hurt, the nociceptor fibers send pain signals to different areas of the brain (Thalamus, Amygdala, Prefrontal cortex...) which may magnify or decrease it. Pain begins in the brain.  

People who suffer from chronic pain have central sensitization, like in fibromyalgia, Chronic headaches, chronic neck or back pain, chronic pelvic pain etc... and the best way to treat them is with exercise, counseling, physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture, yoga, and Mindfulness.

All these modalities have been recommended by the CDC as non Pharmacological treatment for chronic pain. 

We prevent Burnout by building Resilience

November 9, 2017

The purpose of Mindfulness is to help us build Resilience so we can deal more effectively with chronic stress. It facilitates Mental and Emotional balance.

What is Resilience: "It is the ability of an individual to respond to stress in a healthy, adaptive way such that personal goals are achieved at minimal psychological and physical cost...”

(Epstein & Krasner 2013)

Krasner, MD, showed that intensive educational programs in Mindfulness, communication and self-awareness, are associated with improvement in primary care physician’s well-being, and a decrease in burnout and psychological distress.

The intervention consisted of an 8 weekly 2.5 hour sessions, plus an all-day (7h) silent retreat, and a maintenance phase (10 monthly 2.5-hour sessions).

• Participants engaged in mindful meditations, awareness of thoughts and feelings, self-care exploration, reflecting on meaningful experiences in their practice, and bringing their values to their daily practice. 

What are the factors causing Burnout?

November 1, 2017

There are external and internal factors for burnout. • The most common external factors causing Burnout for physicians are endless government regulations, time spent on computer and paper work. A survey of 5892 physicians showed a low satisfaction rate with the amount of time spent on clerical tasks, and high rate of burnout.

Other external factors of burnout for physicians are excessive workload, the complexity of the clinical problems and devastating illnesses of our patients. As well as loss of autonomy, violence in the work place, threat of malpractice suits, the lack of support from administration, and emergency calls.

Most common external factors and stressors mentioned by employees:

Conflicts in company

Poor communication

Lack of job security

Way their boss treat them, and Long hours.

The internal factors causing burnout are:

A perfectionist attitude, Competitiveness.

History of Physical or Emotional abuse.

Lack of Self-care.

Perception that one’s response is inadequate to cope with stress.

Positive Effects of Mindfulness Meditation

November 21, 2016

Meditation and relaxation have been the key elements in bringing mindfulness to common daily practice. The Relaxation response, as described by Dr. Herbert Benson many years ago, has been used as the basis for the stress reduction programs at the Mind-Body institute at Harvard. They have found that the Relaxation response could be used to stabilize and decrease high blood Pressure, to treat chronic back pain, and decrease anxiety and stress in various settings.

Mindfulness Has been a key element in building resilience and preventing Burnout especially for physicians, according to research from Mayo Clinic.

Burnout is a state of chronic stress, characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion, a sense of low personal accomplishment, leading to decreased effectiveness at work and loss of enthusiasm.

Research by Sara Lazar, PhD, and colleagues, a Harvard Neuroscientist, has shown that using MRI to look at brain activity in fine details shows that meditation could promote neural plasticity, and is associated with structural changes in areas of the brain that are important for sensory, cognitive and emotional processing. They showed that meditation produces a thickening in 4 areas of the brain after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation. The most important is the temporo-parietal junction, which is associated with empathy and compassion.

They also showed a reduction in volume of the amygdala and participants reported reduction in stress which was also correlated with decrease grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.

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