More College Students Are Seeking Mental Health Help Than Ever Before

A new study reveals that more college students than ever before admit to dealing with various mental health issues while in school.

More college students than ever are worried about their mental health, about one-third of first-year students, according to the World Health Organization.

Researchers for WHO, led by Professor Randy P. Auerbach of Columbia University Psychology, talked with nearly 14,000 freshman students from Australia, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Spain, and the U.S and reported that 35 percent dealt with mental illness.

Auerbach said that the study’s findings “represents a key global mental health issue.”

The most common issues respondents reported were major depressive disorder at 21.2 percent, followed by general anxiety disorder with 18.6 percent.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.

Auerbach said he believed schools worldwide need to pour serious resources into mental health care and that researchers felt schools were still dangerously unprepared to deal with student’s mental health needs.

“While effective care is important, the number of students who need treatment for these disorders far exceeds the resources of most counseling centers, resulting in a substantial unmet need for mental health treatment among college students,” Auerbach told EurekAlert. “Considering that students are a key population for determining the economic success of a country, colleges must take a greater urgency in addressing this issue.”

Despite the study’s findings showing that schools need to better deal with mental health challenges, he believes advancements in digital mental health resources will make seeking help more cost-effective for college students.

“University systems are currently working at capacity and counseling centers tend to be cyclical, with students ramping up service use toward the middle of the semester, which often creates a bottleneck,” he explains. “Internet-based clinical tools may be helpful in providing treatment to students who are less inclined to pursue services on campus or are waiting to be seen.”

Dr. Shelly Benton, the former director of the University of Florida counseling center, current Vice President of the Society of Counseling Psychology of the American Psychological Association, and founder of TAO Connect, told CNBC about a few things she believes college students can do to help manage their mental health while in school.

She warned student’s not to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

“The danger with regard to mental health is a student will try to self-medicate anxiety, depression or other problems with alcohol and drugs,” she explained.

She also advised students to be proactive with their overall health, explaining “almost everyone can benefit from some good prevention.”

Finally, she urged those struggling with mental health issues to consult with professionals if things are getting out of hand.

“If the problem is more serious or has continued for several months, help from a therapist can be highly effective,” says Benton. “Most colleges and universities have a counseling service or offer a student assistance program that can help evaluate a student’s situation and get them to the help most likely to be effective.”

If you or someone you love suffer from mental health or have suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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