Mental Health Needs Seen Growing at CollegesPosted: December 23, 2010
Today’s parents probably remember the college’s counseling office as the place to go with the blues about a romantic breakup or when they were conflicted about their major. Those rites of passage still trouble students, but campus psychologists increasingly treat severe mental illness. Surveys show nearly half of college students who seek counseling on campus today suffer depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-cutting, alcohol abuse and other serious issues.
Counseling staffs have had to absorb the extra demands with little increase in staff or resources in the past in 15 years.
Stony Brook University, a 24,500-student campus on Long Island that is part of the State University of New York, is typical of how counseling centers are struggling to help students with compassion while operating close to chaos. An article in today’s Times looks at several days in the life of the counseling center as it juggles walk-in patients, emergencies requiring trips to a psychiatric hospital and stress on staff. “By this point in the semester to not lose hope or get jaded about the work, it can be a challenge,’’ said Jenny Hwang, the director of counseling.
A recent survey by the American College Counseling Association found that a majority of students seek help for normal post-adolescent trouble like romantic heartbreak and identity crises. But 44 percent in counseling have severe psychological disorders, up from 16 percent in 2000, and 24 percent are on psychiatric medication, up from 17 percent a decade ago.