A closer look at college mental health statistics shows an increase in students suffering from illnesses and the evolution of resources available to support students.
According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State, higher education counselors today are treating more students than ever before who are dealing with various mental health problems, from depression to anxiety to serious psychiatric disorders. It’s no surprise that a recent survey reveals mental health as the third biggest safety concern for campus leaders and why many are digging deeper into the most recent college mental health statistics.
The Current State of College Mental Health
According to the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, students today are mostly dealing with three major psychiatric conditions, including anxiety (48.2%), stress (39.1%), and depression (34.5%). While most campuses offer mental health psychiatric services, about 25% don’t have these resources available.
A research article, The Association between Mental Health and Violence, also shows that eight mental health conditions are highly associated with violent behavior and 21% of students have been violent in the past. Students are calling out for help. The American Psychological Association states that thanks to “the success of public education campaigns and other efforts to identify at-risk students and refer them to counseling”, counseling centers have seen a 30% increase in students seeking appointments.
Reaching Today’s Student Population
Students today are struggling with being away from home for the first time and rigorous demands of academic life, as well as having access to alcohol and drugs. Today’s campus body is made up of mostly Generation Z students, those who were born between 1995–2009. Generation Z students care very strongly about their overall mental and physical health and wellness. They may struggle to get help and don’t know where or how to find it. In looking closer at Generation Z, most individuals value privacy and use technology in mostly all aspects of their life.
Communicating with this group is different from years past. These students care about mobile personalization and sharing their experiences on social media platforms, such as Snapchat and Instagram. They also are active in social movements and do not tolerate bullying, especially since it's so easy to get away with on the private forums they use on a daily basis. Their attention span is also short at eight seconds, as compared with Millennials' 12 second span, meaning that important messages need to be brief and on multiple platforms.
Some college campuses have looked to technology to reach today’s student population. Two-way text messaging with 9-1-1 is proven to help prevent self-harm scenarios and to help gather information for first responders so they can intervene and provide a timely response before an incident escalates. In recent years, many crisis hotlines have opted for a text format in lieu of the traditional phone call. Generation Z students are three times more likely to open a chat message through a push notification.
Texting is also useful for students who are concerned about a peer or another student but are afraid to speak up. Anonymous two-way tip texting can help connect campus safety with students on campus and empower them to report any concerning behavior on campus. If someone on campus is struggling with a serious, life-threatening mental health issues or substance abuse, students can connect with campus authorities. For many, this capability might be life-saving. To keep them engaged, colleges and universities could share and store content resources on a mobile app for easy access, as well as send official communications about mental health and wellness to their students.
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