Colleges across the country are struggling to keep up with the spike in students seeking mental health services.
In 2015, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health reported that undergraduate students seeking mental health counseling increased by 30% from 2009 to 2015. Results from the 2016 study state that students who are seeking help are likely to have attempted suicide or self-harm.
The American College Health Association ran a survey on 63,000 students at 92 different schools. According to the survey, 40% of students reported feeling so depressed the prior year that it was difficult for them to function. Additionally 61% reported feelings of overwhelming anxiety.
Universities across the country are working to meet the needs of their students.
- UCLA offered a free online depression screening to all incoming students. Over 2,700 students opted in. School counselors have followed up with about 250 students identified as at risk for severe depression.
- Virginia Tech opened satellite counseling clinics to make it more convenient for students by reaching them where they already spend their time.
- Ohio State added a dozen mental health professionals during the 2016- 2017 school year. They also launched a counseling app which allows students to access breathing exercises, listen to positive music, schedule clinic appointments, or contact the clinic in an emergency.
- Penn State allocated about $700,000 in additional funding for counseling and psychological services in 2017. The school reports a “dramatic increase” in demand for care over the past 10 years.
According to a report by the Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors, the average university has 1 counselor for every 1,737 students.
Anne Marie Albano, director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders, is overwhelmed by college students who are struggling with their transition to college.
For many students, mental health appears for the first time when they start college. However for some, mental health difficulties appeared before college.
Albano states that some students believed their issues were only related to high school. Because of this they stopped seeing a therapist or taking their antidepressants.
College students have better access to mental health services than the average adult.
But, without enough funding, students are still going without the treatment they need.
Universities have increased resources for crisis intervention and immediate services such as walk-in appointments since 2010.
The University of Iowa’s counseling center increased its staff by 50% during the 2017-18 school year. Director Barry Schreier states that even with the increase, they struggle to keep up with the number of students seeking help. There is at least a one week wait to see a counselor, which often increases to two weeks by mid-semester.
While colleges are frantically doing their best to meet this demand, off-campus clinics are developing a new plan of action. The new initiatives offer personalized support to teach students to prioritize their mental health in high-stress environments.
A handful of organizations have developed programs specializing in preparing high school students for college, and college students for adulthood. While incredibly useful, they are costly. Some re-entry programs start at the low rate of $10,000.
One solution on the rise is the use of technology to provide direct access to mental health professionals from the comfort of home.
Online therapy is going by a variety of names. Some of them are: Telebehavioral Health, Teletherapy, Telemental Health, or Telecounseling.
These platforms provide a more affordable and accessible way to receive mental health care while also reducing the stigma of receiving care. Sessions are done over the phone or via web-chat. Student’s will be able to schedule sessions with their therapists from anywhere with a wifi signal.
Mental health is becoming less taboo to talk about and treatment is becoming more common to seek out. We can help by informing young adults about options they currently have.