Mental Health Challenges for College Students
Effective academic resources for college students are necessary for ensuring success on campus and beyond, but this alone is not sufficient for supporting and retaining students. Mental wellness continues to be a growing challenge for today’s college students, and without the proper resources to address these issues, higher education institutions will fail to produce strong, healthy, and productive graduates. In fact, retention rates will continue to be a huge issue.
By the Numbers
As the topic of mental health has expanded in social discourse over the past decade or so, we have access to more data than ever about the specific challenges that college students are facing. Because data is knowledge and knowledge is power, we can use these statistics to enable universities to prioritize the proper support services.
Suffering is at an all time high – The National Education Association reports that more than 60% of college students would meet the diagnostic criteria for one or more mental health issues, which sadly represents more than a 50% increase in the last ten years. Additionally, nearly half of all students suffer with symptoms of depression, and the rate of students considering suicide is at an all-time high of 15%.
Equity and inclusivity concerns – Students of color encounter additional hurdles to seeking support. White college students are nearly twice as likely to reach out for help as their Black, Asian, and Latino peers, as the NEA report also shows. The Cleveland Clinic states that Black, Asian, and Latino students are also more likely to describe staying enrolled as “difficult” or “very difficult” than their white peers.
Decreasing enrollment – Not only are matriculated students struggling with mental health issues, but prospective students are turning away from higher education because of their existing challenges. Thirty percent of adults have not enrolled in a degree or certificate program due to emotional stress, with 28% of adults citing personal mental health reasons as a specific reason they have not continued on with their educational journey, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Additionally, students are more likely to drop out now than they were in 2020 and 2021, which indicates that this problem has only grown since the onset of the pandemic.
Barriers to Support
Nearly all higher education institutions provide some sort of mental health resources; nevertheless, many students are either not seeking these support systems or feel they are unable to do so.
Availability and accessibility – Even students who know they have a mental health condition may not seek out counseling services; Inside Higher Ed reports that half of students with a condition have not reached out for this support. For the students who have attempted to seek counseling, Inside Higher Ed also states that 35% of students struggled with appointment availability and 31% were disappointed with the quality of care. Non-traditional students have additional barriers, as the National Institutes of Health states that 95% of this population do not seek support because of their limited schedule or perceived stigma from peers.
Counselor demographics – While counseling can have a positive impact on many people, some students do not benefit from this type of care when their identities are not reflected in mental health professionals. The NEA has found that 72% of college counselors are white, even though nearly half of the students are non-white. This is compounded by the fact that 28% of students who have sought care were unable to schedule with a counselor who they could relate to.
Outdated support offerings – Mental health services on campuses look and operate nearly the same way that they always have. The Cleveland Clinic frames the problem in this simple way: the amount of students entering higher education with mental health concerns is greater than the number of resources available. This is in part because these challenges are more visible than ever, but it poses the problem of overworked campus counselors and underserved student populations. Fortunately, this is where technology can help!
How Upswing Can Help
Upswing has long provided self-service mental health modules that students can employ to expand their understanding of topics like stress and anxiety. The NIH reports that 74% of students have looked to the internet for health information, so it is vital that we meet students where they are at. However, self-service videos and modules are not always enough for students in crisis.
That is one of the reasons why we are so excited to launch our new partnership with BetterMynd, a teletherapy company that provides much more accessibility, availability, and anonymity for all students. By incorporating online counseling into our holistic services platform, we are now able to address some of the most pressing concerns for the students we serve. BetterMynd brings a diverse team of state-certified counselors directly to students’ computers, where they can access scheduled sessions, crisis intervention, wellness workshops, medication management, and more.
Using technology to support students is nothing new, but as the landscape of higher education continues to change, the resources we provide must change too. If your campus is looking for ways to expand your mental health offerings by maximizing technology, please reach out to us for more information!
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