The mental health crisis on college campuses severely affects students nationwide. College students feel overwhelmed by the workload and expectations of pursuing a degree. Because of this, they are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues than their non-college peers.
In fact, according to a Fortune-sponsored Harris Poll, three in five (60%) college students reported being diagnosed with a mental health condition by a professional.1
Unfortunately, many do not seek help for their mental health problems because they don’t know where to go for treatment, there is a lack of resources, or the resources available are inadequate for their needs.
This problem needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Factors impacting colleges students’ mental health
Many factors contribute to the rise in mental health care needs in the college setting, including academic pressures, social injustice, time management, mass violence, and social stress.
Unfortunately, the growing demand for mental healthcare among students has put colleges in a difficult position to provide adequate care. While campus counseling centers and telehealth resources have been successfully implemented at some schools, challenges remain due to high caseloads for on- and off-campus providers. On average, a full-time college counselor handles around 120 students per year, but some centers have a caseload of more than 300 students per counselor across the country.2
Further, according to the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, an estimated 97 percent of counseling centers nationwide need more staff to serve their students adequately.3 While just 11 percent of staff members at these centers report being able to meet the needs of their campus populations.3
As a result, students can be put on waitlists for a month or longer and sometimes denied treatment because of the institution’s inability to meet their demands. Now, students affected by mental health issues are finding it difficult to get the help they need because of the lack of adequate resources for counseling services.
“There is a consensus that students are now more aware of and comfortable discussing their mental health, which is leading to more students seeking help to handle their experiences,” said Jennifer Stevens, Vice President of Healthcare Optimization at Wellfleet, “However, existing resources appear to be contradictory to this. This disparity provides a barrier to access, keeping students waiting while their mental health deteriorates. “
College students need help when it comes to their mental health
Mental healthcare shouldn’t be any different from treating other medical conditions—and yet, when it comes to the number of providers and resources, it often is.
With 1 in 4 college students going untreated for mental health issues,4 schools and their partners need to identify ways to provide additional support systems for students struggling with mental health problems so they can get the care they need before their condition worsens or becomes fatal. Providing different support systems can start with finding a partner that can help provide other on- and off-campus resources, like Wellfleet’s Student Behavioral Health Suite. Then, through improved provider access, provider recruitment, virtual providers, a 24/7 urgent hotline, and more, Wellfleet can help simplify and accelerate access to care.
It’s also important to think beyond in-person or online counseling. In addition to helping students feel comfortable seeking behavioral healthcare, offering access to workshops, peer-to-peer counseling, or wellness methodologies, like Koru mindfulness, should also be considered.
Another consideration is a streamlined approach to mental healthcare by offering same-day intake or single-session counseling. This process takes the initial evaluation and employs action plans based on the discovered needs, which allows students to be seen quickly, rather than going days or weeks without care, and for resources to be correctly identified and sourced.
This approach can identify candidates who need counseling – like those who are depressed or recovering from a traumatic situation as well as those who may be better suited for opportunities to build new skills or develop connections; this includes those students struggling with academic demands, stress, and goal setting may benefit from a workshop or peer-to-peer counseling.
It’s also worth noting is that this shift from individual therapy can help alleviate the strain on students and providers.
Taking action to improve mental health care for college students
Experts acknowledge that rising mental health issues on college campuses will worsen unless institutions take the required steps to guarantee that students receive fast and thorough treatment.5 While many universities nationwide continue to step up their policies, programs, and services for student mental health, much more is still needed. And Wellfleet can help.
As a health plan focused exclusively on student health, we’ve worked hard to find solutions to problems faced by students and client administrators. With that driving force, we’re excited about our Student Behavioral Health Suite.
Designed to provide student members access to behavioral healthcare where, when, and how they need it, the Student Behavioral Health Suite goes beyond the traditional network with eight distinct features designed to improve access to care, quality of care, and outcomes.
Interested in learning more about the Student Behavioral Health Suite and how it can impact your health plan? Download our Student Behavioral Health Suite resource.
1 Leonhardt, M. (2022, July 12). Crisis on campus: 60% of college kids are living with mental health disorders, and schools are woefully unprepared. Retrieved on February 7, 2023, from https://fortune.com/well/2022/07/12/mental-health-crisis-college-schools-unprepared/.
2 Center for Collegiate Mental Health. (2021). Center for Collegiate Mental Health 2021 Mental Health Report. Retrieved on February 7, 2023, from https://ccmh.psu.edu/assets/docs/2021-CCMH-Annual-Report.pdf.
3 AUCCCD. (2021). 2021 Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors Survey. Retrieved on February 7, 2023, from https://www.aucccd.org/assets/2020-21%20Annual%20Survey%20Report%20Public%20Survey.pdf
4Abrams, Z. (2022, October, 12). Student mental health is in crisis. Campuses are rethinking their approach. Retrieved on February 8, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/10/mental-health-campus-care
5 NASPA. (2023, January). NASPA Uwill Research Brief. Retrieved on February 7, 2023, from https://yvy350.a2cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/NASPA-Uwill-Research-Brief-1.pdf.