A Breakdown of Potential Sources of the College Mental Health Crisis by a Towson Psychiatrist
Chances are that one way or another, your life has been affected by mental health. Whether you yourself have struggled with some form of a mental health problem or you have a loves one who struggles with depression or anxiety, you know the toll that mental health issues can take on a person. This incredible stress brought on by mental health issues is naturally elevated by the high-stress environment of colleges and universities, with students stressing over financing their education, cramming for exams, and dealing with the social pressures that college leads to. Psych Associates of Maryland - a leading Towson psychiatrist - we know the toll mental health takes on college students, which is why we decided to dive into exploring the college mental health crisis. This leads us to raise the question: is the college mental health crisis a crisis at all? We’ll break down this question and look to understand how colleges are making changes to help their students right here, right now.
We’ve all heard mention of the college mental health crisis, named to represent the inadequate number of counselors available to the rising demand for mental health care at colleges and universities. This increase in demand is staggering with a 30% surge in college students visiting university counseling centers between 2009 and 2015 while enrollment only grew less than 5%.
Experts in the field suggest that there are two potential causes for this spike in demand. The first of which involves a rising number of college students under mental distress. Studies find that 42% of college students claimed to be so depressed in the past year that it was difficult to function -- a number than has increased from 25% in 2009. Additionally, the number of students who had seriously contemplated suicide doubled between 2009 and 2018 to 12%, raising concerns about why students are struggling to such a high degree.
Experts, including a Towson Psychiatrist, suggest that our changing world could be a driving force in college students struggling with mental health issues. Not only are we exposed to social media that can lead to feelings of social pressure, isolation, and inadequacy, but the external pressures of college life are leading to increased feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. The price of college is rising, leading students to bury themselves in debt for an understandable compulsory degree, take on full-time jobs while in school, and begin each semester questioning how they will afford to continue studying. Additionally, world pressures like a rise in school shootings, an emergence of the #MeToo movement, and more can lead to new ways of thinking about college stresses.
But the second reason college campuses are struggling to keep up with the college mental health crisis may lead us to believe that it’s not much of a crisis at all, but rather, a sign of shifting paradigm in the way we handle mental health care. Students are emerging during a time of liberation in mental health, leading to a shift in attitudes that allows us to talk more openly about mental health struggles. While this does lead to a rise in the number of students visiting college counseling centers, it’s difficult to diagnose this as a crisis. After all, the end result is on its way to being reached; people are seeking the mental health help they need that previously would have been buried. But are college campuses able to keep up with this shift, and if so, what resources are they making available for students?
This rise in the need for mental health resources raises a big question: how many mental health resources should a college or university have for students? The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors found that the average university has only 1 counselor for every 1,737 students and that 6 out of every 10 colleges don’t have a psychiatrist on staff. The same organization recommends that college staff at least 1 counselor for every 1,000 to 1,500 students in addition to ensuring that a Towson psychiatrist is available for adjusting and prescribing medication. Larger colleges and universities typically have higher ratios, with the national average coming in at 1 counselor for every 1600 students.
The simple answer here for colleges looking to expand their mental health care is to hire more counselors. But can they do more to support mild cases of mental health issues and provide students support without hiring new staff?
Colleges across the nation are coming up with new solutions to the college mental health crisis. For example, many colleges are making mental health awareness a cornerstone of the orientation process and requiring mandatory training for students on how to spot mental health issues among peers. Colleges are also turning to technology to help. From wellness apps to ‘Checkups from the Neck Up” at Drexel University in Philadelphia, students are using technology to access resources for mental health care.
Here’s the thing about college mental health care, though; students are a liability to the university on a number of levels. This means students who are in crisis - those who are victims of trauma or at risk to harm themselves - will almost always receive priority access to mental health care on a college campus, causing students with seemingly ‘less urgent’ matters to fall through the cracks.
While colleges and universities work to expand their mental health resources, don’t be afraid to look for health outside of your college or university. Psych Associates of Maryland is the mental health resource located all throughout Maryland designed to provide you with short appointment wait times, comprehensive mental health care, and a Towson psychiatrist able to help you find the medication that can help.
It’s time to make your mental health a priority. Get in touch with Psych Associates of Maryland today to start getting the help you deserve.
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