After reading a recent article focusing on Tulane's concerns over the rise in mental health problems among students and other similar articles about the “mental health crisis” among university students and the staggering increase in anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions on campuses nationwide, I thought I would write about the resources that are available to students at more and more college and university campuses across the country. At an ever-increasing number of schools, mental health centers are popping up and providing students with important resources for coping with stress and anxiety, as well as dealing with larger issues. Universities administering psychological support to students is a big step forward, though still a relatively new practice.
Why the focus on better mental health for students?
It is widely accepted that those entering college today are significantly more likely to struggle with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Over the last decade, the increase has been marked. In 2014, the National Survey of College Counseling Centers noted that 94% of college counselors say that they have observed increasing numbers of students with severe psychological problems. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that 3/4 of cases of mental health conditions begin by age 24 and over 25% of college students have been treated by a mental health professional in the past year. These statistics are a real wake up call. Not only do conditions such as anxiety and depression seriously impede academic performance, they can, in extreme situations, be deadly. Suicide is the number three cause of death on college campuses.
What is causing this crisis?
There are a number of cultural factors that are contributing to the crisis in mental health of emerging adults. Some suggest that the ever-changing religious and unstable political climates and the breakdown of traditional family structure are key contributors. Others believe it has something to do with students attending schools farther from home. Regardless of the cause, it is a fact that students are suffering and struggling and as the surrogate caretakers of these young adults, colleges and universities are shouldering much of the responsibility for the mental health care of students.
The approach and services
The rise of university mental health services in recent years marks a tremendous leap forward in terms of awareness and treatment for students who are struggling. Hopefully, it also indicates less stigma being attached to mental health issues than in the past. In campus mental health centers, care is often provided by mental health professionals including: psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and clinical social workers.
A quick survey of campus mental health centers across the U.S. shows that some of the typical programs & treatments available include:
Tools for coping with stress and anxiety
Counseling for depression, eating disorders, and other mental health issues
Mind body centers
Alcohol & drug treatment
Sexual assault counseling
Self assessment tools
Unfortunately, for individuals dealing with major mental health conditions, the limited services available through college and university mental health centers may not provide sufficient support. Typically, in such situations, these centers can provide a point of contact with the community, giving students expanded resources. Unfortunately, though there are more resources today than in the past, there are not nearly enough professionals to meet student needs. An opinion article penned by a college student in Irvine demonstrated that there was 1 mental health professional to every 1700 students at her college. This kind of ratio is fairly standard. I can only hope that by discussing and writing about the issue and raising awareness, we can get more professionals in these centers to help students.
Stop by next month, we will further discuss this topic.