Record Numbers of College Students Are Seeking Mental Health Treatment — But Can Schools Keep Up?

Between heavy course loads, extra-curricular activities, and social obligations, the average college student has a lot on his or her schedule. In fact, there is high pressure on students to take on more challenges and more classes in the increasingly competitive—and expensive—university environment. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that there’s been a substantial spike in students reporting symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental and mood disorders, disproportionate to the increase in college enrollment. Unfortunately, many of these students are left without the resources they need to seek help, and an all too common consequence of mental illness in college is simply dropping out.

Depression and anxiety are common in college students.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four students has a diagnosable mental illness, and about 40% of those individuals do not seek help. So, why are mental illnesses so common among the college population in the United States? There are a few factors to consider.

First, some mental illnesses like bipolar disorder may not present symptoms until an individual is in his or her late teens or early 20s—right in the heart of college years. Furthermore, college students are under pressure, as they are often living on their own for the first time, and many are accumulating massive debt with every class they add to their schedules. Lastly, it’s common for students to overwork themselves, and this high level of stress can trigger mental and behavioral issues that can have serious consequences.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that issues like depression and anxiety are very common among student populations, stigmas surrounding these conditions can prevent students from getting the help they need. And for students who do recognize that they’re having problems, the resources for treatment may not even be immediately available or accessible.

Universities recognize a problem, but they can’t keep up with treatment.

Many young adults have not had to manage their own healthcare before, so they tend to look to campus health for help. These centers tend to operate on an in-and-out basis—you come in, get a diagnosis, get a prescription, and get on your way. This may be fine for treating a common cold or flu, but it is not sufficient for those with mental health issues.

And while campus health centers have largely recognized that students are more frequently showing symptoms of depression and other disorders, they have not been able to keep up with psychiatric resources, such as counseling and mental health diagnoses for students. Though more students are getting help than they were before, many are still falling through the cracks.

There are resources available off-campus.

Even if you don’t have health insurance or a support system back home, you can find mental healthcare as a student. Services like MeMD make it easy to schedule affordable therapy sessions with licensed providers, from the comfort of your dorm room using your phone or computer. Visits are completely confidential, and they can fit right into your schedule. With MeMD, you can schedule a tele-therapy session within 48 hours, so you don’t have to wait to get help.