National Recovery Month: Addressing Mental Health and Substance Abuse

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President Peterson has designated September as National Recovery Month at Georgia Tech. Students, staff and departments are collaborating to raise awareness of how mental health and substance abuse issues are impacting our student community. A 2012 survey of US college students found the following startling statistics:

  • 30 percent reported feeling so depressed they had difficulty functioning,
  • 50 percent experienced overwhelming anxiety, and
  • 7 percent considered suicide.

When it comes to coping with these emotions, the study revealed that

  • 31 percent of college students reported binge drinking in the last 2 weeks, and
  • 15 percent reported marijuana use in the last month.

Moreover, even among those students who do not experience any of these symptoms or behaviors first hand, many are still impacted by the struggle of their family members, friends and colleagues who experience mental health and substance abuse issues.

Students commonly experience periods of stress and sadness, and many experiment with drugs and alcohol. How do you know when your student is not just stressed, but distressed? How do you know when your student’s sadness has become depression? How do you know when your student’s drinking has drifted from experimentation to abuse?

Here are some signs to help you identify when your student may be in distress.

Signs of Stress and Sadness

  • Missing home and family
  • Feeling like you do not belong
  • Having trouble making friends
  • Feeling nervous or anxious in class
  • Sleeping more or less
  • Eating more or less
  • Missing deadlines
  • Feeling irritable, sad or angry

Signs of Anxiety and Depression

  • Experiencing any of the above signs for more than 2 weeks
  • Stress or worry that is so chronic it interferes with daily functioning
  • Not enjoying activities that you used to enjoy
  • Panic attacks
  • Isolating self from friends, roommates or even family members
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Suicidal thoughts

Substance Use vs. Abuse

Any student using illicit drugs or any student under 21 consuming alcohol is violating the Georgia Tech Student Code of Conduct. According to the National Institutes of Health, binge drinking is defined as:

  • 5 or more standard drinks per day or 15 or more standard drinks per week for men
  • 4 or more standard drinks per day or 8 or more standard drinks per week for women

If your student is consuming alcohol at this rate, they are drinking in high-risk ways that significantly increase their chance of experiencing negative consequences. Using substances to meet emotional needs such as relaxing, feeling less anxious or more socially comfortable are indicators of problematic substance use. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends following low-risk drinking guidelines for healthy adults 21 years of age and older. It’s as easy as 0-1-2-3.

  • 0 black outs or driving after drinking
  • 1 drink per hour
  • 2 days of drinking per week maximum
  • 3 drinks per occasion maximum 

Georgia Tech has a Counseling Center ( that offers free and confidential counseling for mental health and substance use issues. On our website, students can find anonymous self-assessments to see if they have depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and other common mental health problems. Students can seek support through brief consultations, workshops, support groups and individual counseling at the Counseling Center, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. Stamps Health Services has a women’s clinic and psychiatry office offering specialized services. Additionally, the Office of the Dean of Students serves as an advocate for struggling students and houses a wide range of support services.

As we mark National Recovery Month, take this opportunity to check-in with your student about his or her mental health and substance use. Let your student know that Georgia Tech has support resources available to aide him or her in having a successful academic career.


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Rachael Pocklington
  • Created:09/04/2013
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016


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