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Crisis on campus: Schools struggle to meet mental health demands

Posted at 9:11 AM, Nov 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-09 09:11:16-05

It’s been called a crisis on campus-- colleges and universities struggling to meet the growing demand for mental health services for their students.

It’s such a problem the American College Health Association is holding a national symposium on the issue in November. 

College senior Kaitlin Reeves struggles with anxiety and depression. But when things get bad, she knows there’s help close by – at the mental health center at her school. 

“It made me feel more comfortable knowing they were always on campus and helping other students like myself,” she says. 

One study finds a thirty percent increase of students requesting services in a five year period for things like anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide prevention. 

In fact, the demand is so great that according to the American College Health Association, it’s outstripping our nations’ universities capabilities to deliver the care they need. 

“There could be too few staff on campus to really address the needs,” says Bryant Ford, a psychologist at Dartmouth College and spokesperson for the ACHA. “If there are fewer financial resources, it may impact programming, hiring, and also any kind of outreach initiatives.” 

Experts say that can lead to long wait times for appointments or unavailability of services. But some institutions are looking to change that by building new mental health centers on campus and beefing up existing programs by adding round-the-clock mental health hotlines as well as additional screenings and workshops. 

“Workshops can include anxiety reduction workshops or mood related concerns to help them manage things like depression,” says Ford. 

Advocates hope these new centers and programs will give students more options on campus, help with an early intervention, and continue to destigmatize mental health issues.

 Kaitlin says she’s glad to take advantage. “I was tired of feeling the way I did—still do. But counseling has helped significantly,” she says. 

In addition to a push by the universities themselves, some nonprofits are lending a hand. One group, called Screening for Mental Health, is rolling out mental health screening kiosks to colleges around the country. The idea is to offer easily accessible, anonymous online screenings as well as local treatment resources and educational information.