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Student Mental Health in Crisis? Colleges promise to do... anything except help.

National Suicide Prevention: 988

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 800-662-4357


Hey, does anyone reading this feel like nothing they do matters? Feel like you have nothing and no one to turn to? Your local college is here to help! 


We offer a table of Legos, a coloring table, and therapy dogs sometimes! Many colleges also offer limited counseling sessions for free! 


What’s that? You need help right now? You need to schedule an appointment first! All the counselors are booked? We would hate to be you! The Wellness Center is closed? That sounds like a problem for you, not us! 


Student mental health is worse than ever, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020-2021 school year, at least 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem. Another study found that 75% of students reported an increase in psychological stress. Let that number sink in for a moment: seventy-five percent. That’s three-fourths of the student population. But when you look at the current state of the world, even before the pandemic arrived, the increased need for student counseling becomes obvious. 


Not all the reasons for seeking mental health support are bad, mind you. Some of it is due to increased awareness and decreased stigma. The American Psychiatric Association says “Compared with past generations, more students on campus today have accessed mental health treatment before college... Stigma around mental health issues also continues to drop, leading more people to seek help instead of suffering in silence”


Many things affect students’ mental health today more than even twenty years ago. The student workload has increased too, which means more time spent on homework and less time spent on valuable life skills like socialization. 


 School isn’t the only thing students need to worry about, either. Many college students have jobs in addition to their classes and schoolwork. Most students are also navigating the transition between high school and college, relationships, making friends, and living without their parents.  


On top of all this, students are also concerned about social injustices, economic strain, and they are frequently exposed to the threat of mass violence. 


Here’s an example: One of my English classes had gun control as a topic of discussion and mentioned gun violence and shootings. In the very first week of spring semester. You can turn off your TV or shut off your phone, but you can’t do much about your teacher’s lecture. There seems to be no escape from these very stressful topics.


In addition, there seems to be some sort of shooting almost every other day. Last week at the time of this writing there was a shooting in Richmond, Ohio. Less than two years ago there was a shooting at Oakbrook Mall, which is very close to my college. I’m sure many of us haven’t forgotten about the Uvalde Texas Massacre, either.


That doesn’t even get into the overturning of Roe v Wade, the global pandemic, the January 6th insurrection, the Black Lives Matter protests, and the oil spill in Ohio which poisoned their water and their air. All in the past three years. The Ohio spill was only a week or so ago when this was written. 


As you can imagine, this has caused a great deal of stress and trauma for students like myself. Colleges and universities alike are unprepared, understaffed, probably underfunded and woefully unequipped to deal with such an issue. 


Luckily, there are ways we can address this issue. A good start would be offering some sort of 24-hour mental health service. My university’s Wellness Center has limited hours, so this would be a good alternative. Another thing that could be done easily is to advertise the Wellness Center more, or at least guide people to where it is.


But wait, there’s more! College websites could display the services, providers, and whether it’s covered by insurance (and what insurance) on their website. Or maybe it could be one of the tabs  on the student portal home page.


The mental services in college are… not great. But they don’t have to remain this way. Universities and colleges can change things for the better.

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Tags: #opinion #college #mental health


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