Addressing the challenges of mental health on college campuses

It’s back to school and thousands of students are entering college campuses across the United States, many of whom are freshmen who will be living independently for the first time. This group of students belongs to a generation whose members are experimenting higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety than any previous generation, and the pressures that come with independent college living can exacerbate these mental health issues and drop out of college mental health counseling centers face challenges on an unprecedented scale.

As employers begin to prioritize mental health in the workplace, college and university leaders are looking to do the same for students. According to CDC dataSuicide rates among Americans aged 15 to 24 have increased by 51% over the past 10 years, attributable to increasing levels of depression and anxiety among this age group.

The proliferation of mental health problems and suicide among young people is a modern problem influenced by a range of factors, including issues like harassment and assault, political instability, student debt, and future careers. Given the scale of the problem, universities have a unique opportunity to advance the mental health of the student body at a particularly vulnerable point in an individual’s life. It is essential that universities work together to seize this opportunity and become well equipped to proactively address mental health issues.

In recent years, colleges and universities have stepped up their mental health services to meet growing student demand. According to a report According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University, use of counseling centers by students across the United States has increased by an average of 30-40% while enrollment has only increased by 5. %. At about the same time, resources in mental health counseling centers dedicated to “quick access” services increased by 28%. At the same time, resources devoted to ‘routine treatment’ decreased by 7.6%, suggesting that students may be less likely to receive long-term care and attention after initial crisis counseling. . The same report found that 35.8% of students seeking counseling had “serious suicidal thoughts,” a number that has increased for the eighth consecutive year.

The above data indicates an increase in the number of students suffering from severe mental health issues and implies that university mental health services will become even more strained in the future. The time has come for institutions to act.

Some colleges and universities are trying to get a head start by implementing proactive programs to tackle this growing problem. Schools like Duke University, Davidson College, UCLA, and Rutgers are conducting student mental health research and innovative treatment approaches. The most notable example of a proactive treatment approach comes from UCLA. As part of the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge, a campus-wide initiative, UCLA piloted a unique new system of care in 2017 called the Anxiety and Depression Screening and Treatment Program (STAND). , which offers screening, follow-up and treatment for everyone. students for anxiety, depression and suicidality. In addition to its global approach, the particularity of the STAND program is that the evaluation is instantaneous with a transparent routing to the appropriate level of treatment; proactive outreach to people who show signs of suicide risk; and continuous monitoring of symptoms and participant behaviors so that treatment can be tailored.

In addition to uncovering the underlying causes of student mental health issues, many schools are finding ways to provide access to resources in a way that best suits the organization and needs of their students. For example, Davidson and others are turning to an outpatient service, Therapy Assistance Online, for students with less severe cases of depression and anxiety to maintain capacity for more severe cases on site. Other campuses have chosen to focus on specific mental health issues, such as addiction; for example, Rutgers was the pioneer on campus Recovery housing, which welcomes students recovering from alcohol and drug addiction in a supportive community. Another method, demonstrated by dozens of universities across the country, seeks to match needs with existing resources through a platform called YOU at College. Still others aim to reduce stigma by focusing on knowledge barriers; an example of this approach is seen at Drexel, where the campus is now dotted with mental health screening kiosks that offer screenings and connect students to existing resources.

Well-being and good mental health must be embedded in the culture of every college campus, and it’s up to all of us to find ways to achieve this.

About Alma Ackerman

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