Whether you're staying close to home or moving away to a four-year university, college life is a time of new experiences, unfamiliar responsibilities, and learning curves. And if you're like most college students, it's also the first time you'll have to manage your mental health without parental support.
If you're thinking about joining a fraternity or sorority, you'll need to take on some extra responsibilities. From balancing a hectic social life along with maintaining your academic performance, Greek Life poses unique challenges—and it's important to decide whether joining a fraternity or sorority is the right choice for you. Whether you're starting freshman year or preparing for next semester, here's how to maintain your mental health while participating in Greek Life.
How does Greek Life affect mental health?
For college students, Greek Life can have wide-ranging mental health benefits. Research suggests that higher levels of social support among fraternity and sorority members can help combat depression and loneliness.
According to the University of Tennessee, fraternity and sorority members consistently report better mental health and reduced depression and anxiety than their peers. They also have higher rates for the lifetime use of therapy or counseling and better campus support systems, but many members lack knowledge of how to access mental health services if needed. Through Greek Life, college students and alumni can find opportunities for professional growth and personal support—all while making lifelong connections with collegiate members.
Is Greek life right for you?
If you're weighing the pros and cons of Greek Life, it's important to think about your goals. For many people, joining a fraternity or sorority can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Taking on a leadership role during college can shape your identity as you transition into adulthood. Greek Life can help you create a strong support system who can one day fuel your professional development and personal growth after college.
Of course, Greek Life isn't for everyone. Some members may experience specific stressors related to their experience. Many organizations expect members to maintain high grade point averages, attend events, and participate in community service. Greek Life can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you're already struggling with academics or mental health concerns.
Some common mental health challenges in Greek Life include:
- Academic performance. If you're struggling to keep up with homework assignments or studying, peer mentors can help you set healthy boundaries and improve your time management skills. Strong academic performance is especially important for Greek Life students, as many fraternities and sororities have minimum GPA requirements.
- Financial problems. Many organizations have semester or annual fees. Fortunately, many fraternities and sororities offer scholarships and payment plans to help with the costs. If financial issues are causing distress, working with a counselor can help you practice budgeting and cope with financial stress as a college student.
- Depression. Although rates of depression are lower among Greek Life students, depression should always be taken seriously. Depression is more than "the blues." It's a serious mental illness that can affect your mood, behavior, academics, and ability to function in daily life. If you're experiencing any mental health symptoms, visit your school's counseling center or consider online therapy.
- Anxiety. Between academics and Greek Life, it's normal to feel stressed. But when stress goes untreated, it can deepen into anxiety. If you're experiencing panic attacks, racing thoughts, low energy levels, or other anxiety symptoms, you may have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the United States, but they can take a major toll on your college life if left untreated.
- Substance use. Members of Greek organizations often use more drugs and alcohol than traditional college students. Substance use can negatively impact your relationships, academic performance, and mental health. Dealing with college stressors isn't easy, but drug use isn't the answer. Remember that seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
How to prioritize mental health in college
Above all else, it's important to prioritize your mental health and academics. It's normal to experience mental health issues throughout college, but it's still possible to enjoy the experience and grow from it.
- Establish a self-care routine. Finding time for self-care can feel impossible, but even simple things like getting enough sleep and engaging in regular exercise can help you build resilience. Whenever possible, try to set aside time for hobbies and social activities outside of Greek Life. It's important to find a healthy balance and maintain a regular schedule to maintain positive mental health.
- Take a proactive approach to academics. Prioritize school assignments based on their due dates and time obligation. Before you start an assignment, gather any resources you'll need to complete your work (textbooks, class notes, project partners) and make arrangements to ensure you're prepared. Most importantly, keep your commitment to yourself! Spend the time working on your assignment, not scrolling through social media. Plan short breaks to keep yourself motivated while studying.
- Get organized. When it comes to schoolwork, know exactly what's expected and when it's due. Try keeping a calendar filled with important test dates, due dates for assigned homework, and project milestones. If you're feeling overwhelmed, break down your daily calendar into one-hour increments to organize your day. Don't forget to break up your day with "me time." Even a quick therapy session, five minutes of mindfulness, or a walk outside can help clear your mind.
- Make the most of failure. Most college students experience mental health challenges during their first semester. You might feel hopeless after getting a low grade on an exam but resist the temptation to give up. Ask yourself where you can improve next time: Do you need to spend more time studying? Should you visit professors during office hours for extra help? Take steps to correct yourself so you'll do better next time.
- Seek help when you need it. Recognize your limits. If you're constantly feeling overwhelmed by Greek Life expectations, heavy course loads, or other challenges, don't be afraid to reach out for professional help. Talk to a trusted friend, look for on-campus support, and communicate with professors so you can make the accommodations necessary to prioritize your mental health.
Whether you're participating in Greek Life, navigating college with a mental health condition, or experiencing new symptoms, college life can feel overwhelming. At Charlie Health, our compassionate mental health professionals will meet you where you are so you can take the first step toward better mental health.
With our virtual intensive outpatient treatment program, you can access comprehensive mental health care from the comfort of your home (or dorm room) without disrupting your college schedule. Our state-of-the-art virtual IOP combines individual therapy, support groups, and family therapy to create a holistic treatment plan for every client. Contact us today to start your healing journey.