Tag: mental health

Lack of resources from university health centers are turning away students from seeking mental health

One in 4 college students deal with some kind of mental health issue. Colleges across the country say they’re there to help, but the TODAY show’s six-month investigation from 22 students at 10 different universities revealed that students are getting kicked out of college for seeking help. Could the reason for this be the lack of resources from university health centers?

The coverage tells the story of Jasmine, a student at the University of Chicago, who began struggling with depression and went to seek help at the school’s counseling center. Unequipped and unprepared to handle her situation, they sent her off to the hospital where she was kept for two weeks. She returned to school forced to sign a contract that asked her to leave campus immediately. This forced mental leave is making its way to headlines of college campus newspapers all over the country. The narrative seems to be that students are reluctant to seek help at college counseling centers to risk the embarrassing and harsh reality of being sent home against their will.

This poses a very important question. What message are we sending students? It’s a message filled with fear of being sent to the psychiatric ward and kicked out of school. Only 60% of students struggling actually end up seeking help, but recent data collected by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University at 139 college and university counseling centers, from 2009-2010 through 2014-2015, reflects “slow but consistent” growth in students reporting depression, anxiety and social anxiety. And 20% of students seeking mental health treatment are taking up about half of all campus counseling center appointments.

While there are certainly growing concerns over other mental health issues affecting college students today, it’s safe to presume that a major issue in this situation is the lack of resources from university health centers to screen, identify and reduce risky behaviors. According to CDC data, risky behaviors are the primary cause of morbidity and mortality among adolescents and young adults. This is especially relevant for college students who are experiencing a new freedom and engaging in developmentally appropriate (but often risky) experimental behavior. The need is clear: effective preventive care for this age group must include accurate and consistent risk identification and behavior change counseling.

Many institutions launch annual campus-wide surveys to assess student alcohol use and required surveys such as Title IX sexual violence “climate” surveys. These surveys play a critical role in understanding health risks of students, and help to direct programming funds. However, for the student struggling with a specific issue such as depression, or sexual assault, there is no opportunity to disclosure their issues and receive intervention or follow-up—a missed opportunity with the potential for significant impact on the student’s health, quality of life, and academic success. Identifiable campus-wide surveys provide insight for the institution – and actionable intervention for the student before their issues grow to an unmanageable level.

Consistent and early identification and reduction of student risk behaviors is critical for University Health Centers. If we can better equip professionals at universities and colleges with the tools they need for early identification of students in need, we can shift the message we’re sending from fear to hope. Developed by experts and vetted by young adults, RAAPS and ACT tools address these issues and more, in language students relate to, in an online format, which allows students to feel comfortable answering honestly across the range of risk topics.

Universities are desperate for technology that helps identify risks and secures accurate data in a timely fashion. Universities and colleges face a unique challenge—caring for the physical and mental health of students and providing a safe environment that supports academic achievement, all with limited time and budgets.

An article from the Huffington Post says, “The campus centers are continually understaffed because their budgets are often based on some kind of historical calculation of the number of students enrolled and previous rates of students requesting appointments.”

These are serious issues. We hope you will join us in working together to ensure that all of the students in your population are screened for risky behaviors that impact their health and academic success. Don’t grapple with these issues alone. You have the opportunity to make a real and lasting positive change in your student’s health and your institution’s financial bottom line.

What are the next steps?

Download the Risky Business on Campus eBook to explore the top 10 considerations for identifying risk behaviors of college students and to find out how you can enhance your services to save a life.

Research Behind the RAAPS Questions (Question #19)

Do you have any serious issues or worries at home or at school?

The period of adolescence is often filled with increased stress over school, friends, or family.  As youth struggle to cope with social, emotional, and physiological stressors they may easily become overwhelmed. If this happens, inadequately managed stress can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, or other mental health disorders.

Did you know?

  • –  One in five youth ages 9-17 are estimated to experience serious emotional disturbances or other mental health problems.

Without appropriate guidance or treatment, these emotional and mental health problems could lead to poor academic behavior, family problems, substance use, unintentional injuries, juvenile incarceration, or suicide.

Family and societal stress may cause adolescents to act out in a delinquent manner. Adolescent ethnic minority groups often receive poorer quality of mental health treatment and are less likely to access services. Furthermore, African American youth, especially males, are more likely than other ethnic/racial youth groups to be referred to the juvenile justice system as opposed to mental health treatment.

Try these messages with youth:

  • – Everyone feels nervous, anxious or worried at times. It is common for new or challenging situations to make you feel this way.  However, these feelings should not stop you from doing the things you want to do. Talking to a trusted adult can help you to work through your worries and find solutions. Remember that you are not alone and that there are people that care and want to help you.
  • –  Learning how to relax and deal with stress can help you feel more like yourself.  Try some of the following: deep breathing exercises or yoga to relax your mind and body, get enough sleep and exercise, eat well, take a walk or squeeze something (like a stress ball).
  • –  Spend time with people close to you who accept you and make you feel safe, sometimes the people around you may not be giving you the support you need or deserve.
  • –  Remember to focus on the positive things in your life and work through issues one at a time.
  • –  Manage your time with a planner and with achievable to-do lists to not feel overwhelmed.


Research Behind the RAAPS Questions (Question #18)

During the past month, did you often feel very sad or down as though you had nothing to look forward to?

Research has indicated that the decline in mental health and increase in behavioral problems during adolescence are occurring partly because youth experience massive life changes during the period of adolescence. These problems include negative images of self, depression, delinquency, and substance use. Depression or depression-like symptoms are serious problems that impact every aspects of an adolescent’s life. Left untreated, depression can lead to problems at home and school, drug or alcohol abuse, and even irreversible tragedy such as homicidal violence or suicide.

Symptoms of depression often go unnoticed, and adolescents with major depression are likely to identify themselves as depressed before their parents suspect a problem. Adolescent depression is fairly common. Population studies show that at any point in time, 10-15% of children and adolescents have some symptoms of depression. Depression is treatable and while some depression-like symptoms are expected as teenagers adapt to the challenges of growing older, dramatic long-lasting changes in personality, mood, and behavior are signs of a deeper problem.

Try these messages with youth:

– “It is completely normal to feel sad, down, or lonely. We all feel this way from time to time.  However, sometimes you may need a little help to feel better. Depression is more than sometimes feeling blue or sad. It often lasts for weeks, months or even longer. If you feel sad or down for longer than 2 weeks, tell an adult you trust. Never be ashamed of how you are feeling or afraid to ask for help. Depression doesn’t always go away by itself.”

–  Here are some ways to help you begin to feel more like yourself:

  • – Talk with a mental health care professional
  • – Exercise
  • – Eat healthy
  • – Listen to music
  • – Journal to help you express your feelings
  • – Talk with a trusted adult or friend
  • – Go out and do activities you enjoy
  • – Sometimes medications are needed to help you feel better

– “Don’t get discouraged; it takes time to work through depressed feelings but you can get through it. Remember that you are not alone.  There are people out there who care about you and want to help!”

Resources for youth:

– CopeCareDeal is a mental health website for teens.

– TeensHealth is a safe, private place for teens who need honest, accurate information and advice about health, emotions and life.  View TeensHealth’s depression information for teens.