What Mental Health Services are Found on College Campuses?

The pressures of academic achievement, pre-existing issues, and lifestyle factors can all contribute to a college student’s mental well-being, and most schools across the country have mental health services available on campus to treat those who need support. However, it’s not always clear what services these centers offer. Many campuses differ in how they approach mental illness, some diagnosing and prescribing medication while others choosing to refer students to external counseling centers. If you’re dealing with anxiety, depression or other serious internal issues while taking classes, then you may benefit from on-campus counseling.

Mental Health Support

The number of students seeking mental health counseling at school is on the rise according to the American Psychological Association or APA, and it’s a trend that’s been growing since the mid-1990s. In 2010, a survey conducted by the American College Health Association found that nearly 46 percent of respondents felt “hopeless” while about 31 percent reported feeling severely depressed to the point that they couldn’t function. Depression and anxiety rank as the most prevalent mental conditions that students report, but equally alarming is the number of cases related to eating disorders, self-injury and substance abuse. There is also a noticed rise in PTSD cases as more veterans enter classrooms as part of their return to the civilian world.

To combat these statistics, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act was passed in 2004. The GLSMA created three programs for campuses across the country: Campus Suicide Prevention, the Technical Assistance Center, and State/Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention. According to the APA, the “programs have made a significant difference in addressing the issue of suicide,” which is one of the top causes of death among young people. The GLSMA was renewed in 2011 to continue support for on-campus counseling resources.

Academics and Career Counseling

Aside from mental health issues, students turn to university counseling centers for academic support and career guidance. Some majors, such as those in the liberal arts or business, offer a wider career path than, say, biochemistry or aviation. Students who need assistance finding internships, taking the right courses or dealing with particularly challenging course loads will seek help from guidance counselors. Some schools combine mental health counseling and career guidance into one department.

Greater Need with Fewer Resources

Students seek mental health services for a variety of reasons, but some schools struggle to meet even basic needs. With an increase in the number of students who need help, some schools simply lack the staffing necessary to treat and follow up with at-risk students. In addition, students at different schools don’t always receive the same level of care even when dealing with the same issues. There’s little uniformity across university crisis centers. However, the landscape of mental health care is changing for the better. More schools are looking into ways to benefit at-risk students so that they can get the help that they need.

Earning a degree can be stressful enough without factors such as family issues, mental or emotional problems, or financial concerns. Fortunately, students who need help today have more options for dealing with problems, and the stigma against therapy has lessened over the years. You may not think about needing counseling while you’re in school, but it’s an important factor to consider just in case. At the very least, counseling centers can offer support when you need help choosing a major or career path. When deciding on a college, ask about the mental health services that are available on campus.