The past decade has seen a rise in the presence of mental illness on college campuses. This trend has been prevalent since the 1990s, and has steadily gotten worse. The transition to college is a high-risk time for mental problems.
Many mental illnesses start either before or during college. Students may develop one within their first year. When students first come to college, some experience separation anxiety in their transition, but the huge increase of mental illness in students is not due merely to homesickness. Big life changes, financial stress, and academic pressures are catalysts for these health problems, and mental problems are huge impediments on a student’s education and social life.
A 2010 National Survey of Counseling Center Directors saw a 28 percent increase of severe psychological problems since 2000. The most common mental illnesses are depression and anxiety, with a recent increase in eating disorders and self-harm.
Part of the reason there has been an increase in reports is because many mentally ill students are seeking treatment. In the past, some people with mental problems would not even go to college, but because more people are seeking treatment, they are able to continue on in their studies with the help of counselors and medication. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that almost 73 percent of mentally ill students experienced some kind of crisis on campus, but 34 percent said that their college was unaware of that crisis. Educating colleges on the reality of mental illness may help students reach out to counseling centers.
Congress took action against the mental health crisis when it passed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act in 2004. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2004 had the greatest increased percentage of suicide since the 1990s. The law created three main programs to aid mentally ill students: campus suicide prevention, state/tribal youth suicide prevention, and the technical assistance center. These programs have been effective at reaching out to colleges, but they are not wholly able to provide mental health services with properly trained mental health professionals.
Mental illnesses should be treated the same as physical illnesses, which are also technically due to chemical imbalances. If someone becomes physically sick, they would not be mocked nor blamed for it, but met with sympathy and told to seek proper medical care. It should be a goal to treat those suffering from mental illness in the same way.
Most college provide psychological counseling services. I would encourage any students who can recognize mental problems in themselves to seek out counseling. It is an incredibly brave step in helping yourself.