Posted On: January 18, 2013 by Patrick A. Malone

More Resources for Mental Health Treatment on College Campuses

College is when kids become adults and, for many, begin to navigate the world mostly by themselves. It’s also when, in some cases, the symptoms of mental illness begin to present or get worse.

A collaborative report by KaiserHealthNews.org and NPR recently explained how some campuses are implementing systems to address the growing population of students with mental health needs. The growing demand is attributed to a couple of factors: a society more tolerant of the need to help people with mental illness so that students feel more comfortable seeking help at school, and more teenagers getting mental health treatment earlier who otherwise wouldn’t have made it to college at all.

According to the story, the average college counseling center sees 1 in 10 of the school's enrolled students each year.

At the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, for example, the counseling center uses a triage system to be able to see as many students as possible. When a student calls the counseling line, he or she gets a 20-minute phone consultation with a therapist. Discussion subjects include sleeping and eating habits, attendance, substance use and whether they're having thoughts of self-harm.

Students in crisis are seen by counselors immediately. If appropriate, prescriptions for medication are authorized. One in 4 callers is referred to off-campus therapists right away.

Last year, the program was able to accommodate 9,000 counseling center visits with only 12 full-time therapists for a student body of about 25,000.

Alison Malmon, president and founder of Active Minds, a mental health advocacy group with chapters on campuses across the country, told Kaiser/NPR that schools are getting better at meeting the mental health needs of their students. It’s not ideal, but it’s a big step forward.

To anyone who has felt the social/academic/away-from-home pressure of attending college, results of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors Annual Survey (2011) will come as no surprise. Anxiety has outpaced depression as the No. 1 student complaint.

That’s a consequence, no doubt, of the tight job outlook in our pinched economy. But as one former director of the UVA counseling center said, "We really want students to know it's OK to reach out for help, and there's no shame in having anxiety or depression… . It's just part of the human condition."

To find a chapter of Active Minds, click here. To learn more about treatment for depression among teenagers, see our blog. And here are tips for finding a psychotherapist.

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