There is an increased demand for counseling centers on college campuses. But, that does not
necessarily mean that students are getting sicker. Instead, it's likely student
mental health needs across the country have increased due to national
prevention and awareness efforts over the past decade.
"The results we are seeing are the outcomes we would expect to see from
suicide prevention efforts over the last decade," said Ben Locke,
executive director of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn
‘Student mental health needs across the country have increased due to national prevention and awareness efforts over the past decade.’
"We've been asked if students are sicker today, and this
doesn't seem to be supported by the data. Over the last six years, the
rate at which students report prior mental health treatment has not
increased, but with communities being primed to say 'that's a problem,
let's find you help,' more students are being referred."
In response to growing demand, university counseling centers
also have experienced operational changes over the last six years. They
are providing 28% more "rapid-access" service hours per client
and 7.6% fewer "routine" service hours per client. With more
resources going into "rapid-access" services - first-time and emergency
appointments - counseling centers' routine treatment capacities are
likely being impacted, especially when funding is flat.
"Counseling centers always make sure to provide emergency
services in a short time period - that's our priority," said Locke, who
also directs Penn State's Center for Counseling and Psychological
Services. Moving forward, he said, counseling centers need to ensure
students in need - not just those experiencing a crisis - get
follow-up treatment to heal.
Locke compared the scenario to other forms of health care. "If
you have strep throat, and go into a health center, they won't tell you
to come back in two weeks because they're fully booked," he said, "and
they won't give you a half prescription; you'll get a full prescription
for the medication you need."
These are some of the findings in the 2016 Center for Collegiate Mental
Health (CCMH) Annual Report - the largest and most comprehensive
report on college students seeking mental health treatment to date. A
sample of other findings include:
- Counseling centers are evaluating and managing increasing numbers of students who may also represent "threat-to-self."
- Trends in students' thoughts or actions related to harming others continue to be infrequent.
- Anxiety and depression continue to be the most common
presenting concerns for college students as identified by counseling
The report describes 150,483 unique college students seeking mental
health treatment; 3,419 clinicians; and more than 1,034,510
appointments from the 2015-16 academic year. This is the eighth year the
report has been produced.