Every year, over two million high school grads embark on their journey to become college students. Armed with their newfound freedom, these students are tasked with handling the growing pains associated with higher education; rigorous coursework, new relationships, autonomy, financial pressures, balancing family responsibilities, etc. While this time period is typically associated with being exhilarating and carefree, alarming statistics also remind us about the stealthy increase of depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders, and addiction present across college campuses nationwide (NAMI, 2019). The prevalence of these disorders are the highest recorded among college students and more students are utilizing their institution’s mental health services than ever before.
The pressures of today’s society are theorized to exacerbate these disorders among students. “We live in a culture that places importance on certain elements that are related to success including wealth, academic achievement, and job performance. Some educational programs are only available to students who obtain the highest scores in their fields” (Red Oaks Recovery Center). This competitive atmosphere has both positive and negative consequences. A 2018 study noted that more than 60% of college students felt overwhelming anxiety and 40% of students at any given time within the past twelve months felt so depressed that it was challenging to function. Also, 12% of these students seriously considered suicide. It’s important to mention that suicide is the second-leading cause of death within this age group.
Despite the growing need for mental health services, many schools struggle to meet the needs of their students. At Rowan University, a local NJ college, semester long wait lists plague the underserved student body and devastatingly amassed multiple suicides within the last few years. The most recent suicide was confirmed last month. A student at the college recently published an article in the school’s paper, “The Wellness Center needs to step up.” The article highlighted the challenges encountered for her and her classmates to utilize the mental health services on campus. She mentioned barriers such as now charging a copay per visit, lengthy waitlists, and underperforming mental health programs.
Another article recently published in the Courier-Post stated that Pennsylvania’s largest community college has been making plans to eliminate on-campus mental health services for it’s students all together. It’s imperative that college students have mental health services available to them as they face one of the most vulnerable and critical developmental periods of their lives. These are just two of many college institutions that are voicing the need for change. As a mental health professional, it’s critical to advocate for change and empower students to seek the help they need.
If you’re a college student, you should get familiar with your own college/university’s mental health services. Discover programs, groups, and individualized services to know the options available to you if experience distress, a crisis, or difficult transition. If you aren’t able to access on-campus services because of crisis, waitlists, need for higher level of treatment, or other barriers to therapy, don’t wait to seek help.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255