In the Know
Mental Health: A College Issue
Student mental health issues play a significant role on college campuses, affecting students’ academic, emotional, and physical well-being, as well as their long-term development.
In the 2008 National Survey of Counseling Center Directors, more than 95 percent of the responding directors reported that students with significant psychological concerns continue to be a major problem on their campuses. For at least 10 years, college counselors and administrators have seen a trend of increasing numbers of students with serious psychological disorders attending college.
College students most frequently seek treatment at student counseling centers for depression. Depression increases the risk of substance abuse and can occur in combination with other problems such as anxiety and eating disorders. If untreated, depression can lead to suicide, the second leading cause of death among college students. Recent studies found between 25 and 30 percent of students report significant signs of depression.
In response, counseling centers are engaging in a variety of activities designed to increase their outreach and effectiveness, most significantly by increasing the amount of time spent training faculty and others in how to respond to students in trouble. Many campuses participate in depression or anxiety screening days. They have expanded external referral networks, and when possible, increased counseling center staff and consultation hours, offering evening hours at some institutions.
Two recent studies—the counseling directors’ survey and the 2009 Pilot Study from the Center for the Study of Collegiate Mental Health (CSCMH)—demonstrate that counseling centers are effective. In the directors’ survey, respondents indicate 58 percent of clients report that counseling helped them remain in school and 61 percent said it helped with academic performance. This is particularly significant because students seeking counseling did not initially list these as primary concerns. Results from the CSCMH pilot study showed that after six weeks, students receiving counseling through their school showed statistically significant decreases in depressive symptoms. Students deemed most at risk demonstrated especially pronounced improvement.
“The most exciting thing about this effort [the pilot study] is that we were able to establish some accurate baseline rates regarding the prevalence and severity of mental health issues in college students,” said Ben Locke of the CSCMH.
The challenge continues to be how to reach more students, especially with increased demands on the counseling center staffs.
From The Lectern
The documents that we hold in this very hall—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights—are not simply words written into aging parchment. They are the foundation of liberty and justice in this country, and a light that shines for all who seek freedom, fairness, equality, and dignity around the world. ... I’ve studied the Constitution as a student, I’ve taught it as a teacher, I’ve been bound by it as a lawyer and a legislator. I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief, and as a citizen, I know that we must never, ever turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience’s sake.
— President Barack Obama
Speech at the National Archives
May 21, 2009