Boosting mental health in college must be a priority on college campuses. Many students across the nation are struggling, and recent years have seen their mental health take a significant toll. In most states, suicide rates have increased in recent years, in many cases by a large percentage.1
Suicide is one of the top three causes of death for those in the U.S. aged 15-34, according to the CDC, with more than 14,000 people in this age group dying per year by suicide.2 This alone is a startling reality.
To take it one step further, data also indicates that 11.3% of young adults aged 18 to 25 have had serious suicidal thoughts, with as many as 4% making a suicide plan.1 That equals 3.8 million young adults with suicidal ideation and 1.3 million with suicidal plans yearly.1 The rate of suicidal ideation in young adults is much higher than that of the general adult population, 11.3% compared to 4.9%.1
With such vulnerability among our student population, it’s not a surprise that bolstering mental health rises to the top of the conversation on campuses. What can we do to help students feel safer, healthier, and happier? How can we decrease the suicide rates on campus and provide the resources students need to thrive?
In this blog, we’ll dive into the data around mental health in college and discuss a few ways to help support the mental health of your students. Then, we’ll walk you through what Wellfleet Student is doing to confront and help mitigate this crisis among our student population.
The mental health reality – diving into the data
Understanding the reality of what college students are experiencing can help you determine how you can positively impact the trajectory of these students’ lives.
Along with suicide and suicidal thoughts, college students may also face other mental health challenges, as indicated by positive screenings for mental health disorders, including:
- Major depression (20% of students)
- Depression, major and moderate (41% of students)
- Anxiety disorder (36% of students)
- Eating disorder (14% of students)
- Non-suicidal self-injury (29% of students)3
These numbers are staggering, highlighting the necessity of support resources to help struggling students. In addition to causing myriad challenging symptoms, many mental health conditions can also increase the risk of suicidal thoughts,4 which makes getting the proper treatment even more imperative.
4 ways to help your students
After reading all this data about the mental health struggle facing college students, you probably find yourself asking, “What can I do to help?”
We’ll discuss four ways campus staff, professors, and administrators can help reduce the mental health strain on students.
1. Provide easy access to mental health resources
The first way to aid students is to make it easy for them to get help when they experience mental health struggles. Connect students with qualified professionals who can help them — ideally as soon as possible before symptoms get too severe.
According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment for mental illnesses can include a combination of the following:
- Consultation with the appropriate provider team, such as:
- Social workers
- Inpatient or residential treatment programs5
Additional considerations should be accounted for when considering how to give your students the best access to care, including convenience and cost.
Keep in mind that students are busy, so they may not have time to go off campus to see a mental health provider. That’s why it’s important to provide on-campus resources, such as:
- Student Health Center support
- Telehealth options for meeting with counselors and psychiatrists
- 24/7 mental health hotline like CareConnect
- Digital behavioral health resources like SilverCloud® by Amwell®
2. Reduce costs of care for mental health conditions
Reducing healthcare costs is key to ensuring students can get the mental and emotional help they need.
Keeping out-of-pocket costs low is important because many college students experience financial challenges. 48% of students indicate that their financial challenges have made it difficult to concentrate on school.6
Furthermore, 21% of students report finances as a barrier to receiving help for their mental and emotional health.3 Therefore, bringing the costs of care down can help more students access the care they need.
Consider how your school can reduce any or all of students’ out-of-pocket costs, including:
- Out-of-pocket maximums
To learn more about how colleges can combat the rising cost of student healthcare, read our guide that lays out five strategies for lowering the costs of care.
3. Strengthen community ties on and off campus
The third way to help the mental health of students is to provide community support on campus. According to the CDC, social connection can help prevent depression and anxiety, and it can also help people recover from depression, anxiety, and stress.7
One strategy for helping students mentally and emotionally is to foster community for your students. They need to feel they belong on campus and have people who care about and support them amid challenges.
A few ways you can strengthen community on campus include:
- Identifying diverse groups on campus and creating student-led groups for them. This could include clubs like:
- Pride club
- Ethnic student groups
- Women in Science club
- Religious groups
- AA and other addiction support groups
- Setting the standard for inclusivity, which helps students feel accepted and welcomed for their unique stories and perspectives.
- Create mentoring programs or counseling forums to increase one-on-one connections. This could include a faculty-student mentoring program or peer mentoring programs between students.
Learn more about the value of diversity on campus and how greater diversity can help strengthen the community.
4. Educate and involve faculty
When looking to create a healthier and happier campus community, it’s important to consider the role of professors, faculty, and staff. Helping faculty and staff understand the importance of prioritizing mental health can help form a healthier campus environment.
Additionally, involve and educate your faculty on how to best support students who are struggling. With that also comes education on how to identify struggling students. According to SAMHSA, educators are often the first people to notice mental health problems in this population.8
Ensure your faculty and professors can identify the warning signs of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide. Then, educate your faculty about the best way to report their concerns and support these students.
How we’re improving student access to mental healthcare
At Wellfleet, we’re committed to improving the overall health of all our student members. We take mental health in college seriously, which is why Wellfleet Student continually optimizes the mental and behavioral health offerings for members of our student health insurance plans.
We focus on making it easy for students to access the behavioral healthcare they need. Our student behavioral health suite provides access to:
- In-person and telehealth mental health sessions with counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists
- Digital, self-guided programs that help students manage their behavioral health
- A 24/7 hotline where students can reach emergency mental health support
- A pharmacy solution that provides affordable access to mental health medications
Learn more about Wellfleet’s student-centered health plans
To learn more about how you can create a student health insurance plan that prioritizes your students’ mental health, reach out to our Sales team today.
Wellfleet is the marketing name used to refer to the insurance and administrative operations of Wellfleet Insurance Company, Wellfleet New York Insurance Company, and Wellfleet Group, LLC. All insurance products are administered or managed by Wellfleet Group, LLC. Product availability is based upon business and/or regulatory approval and may differ among companies.
1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt35325/NSDUHFFRPDFWHTMLFiles2020/2020NSDUHFFR1PDFW102121.pdf.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). 10 Leading Causes of Death, United States. https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2020-508.pdf.
3 Eisenberg, D, and Lipson, SK, et al. (2023). The Healthy Minds Study 2022-2023 Data Report. Healthy Minds Network. https://healthymindsnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/HMS_National-Report-2022-2023_full.pdf.
4 Psychology Today Staff. Mental Health and Suicide. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/mental-health-conditions-suicide.
5 Mayo Clinic Staff. (2022, December 13). Mental illness. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374974.
6 Fletcher, C, Cornett, A, et al. (2023, May). Student Financial Wellness Survey. Trellis Research. https://www.trelliscompany.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/SFWS-Aggregate-Report_FALL-2022.pdf.
7 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, March 30). How Does Social Connectedness Affect Health? https://www.cdc.gov/emotional-wellbeing/social-connectedness/affect-health.htm.
8 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2023, April 24). For Educators. https://www.samhsa.gov/mental-health/how-to-talk/educators.