Posted by: Gregory Linton | 10/30/2019

Student mental health is a growing concern among higher education professionals

One of the hot topics in the higher education media these days is the increase in mental health issues among college students. A special concern is that suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among college students. I am going to summarize key findings from three recent reports on this topic.

Lipson, S. K., Lattie, E. G., & Eisenberg, D. (2019).  “Increased rates of mental health service utilization by U.S. college students: 10-year population-level trends (2007-2017).” Psychiatric Services, 70(1), 60-63.

This study drew on ten years of data from the Healthy Minds Study, an annual Web-based survey of 155,026 students on 196 campuses. Here are some of the key results:

  • 26.9% of respondents screened positive for depression, and 8.2% reported suicidal ideation.
  • Suicidal ideation increased from 5.8% in 2007 to 10.8% in 2016-2017.
  • Rates of past-year treatment increased from 18.7% in 2007 to 33.8% in 2016-2017.
  • The proportion of students with a diagnosed mental health condition increased from 21.9% in 2007 to 35.5% in 2016-2017.
  • The most common location for receiving services was on campus, with rates increasing from 6.6% in 2007 to 11.8% in 2016-2017.
  • Rates of personal stigma decreased from 46.0% to 5.7%.

Chessman, H., & Taylor, M. (2019). College Student Mental Health and Well-Being: A Survey of Presidents. Retrieved from https://www.higheredtoday.org/2019/08/12/college-student-mental-health-well-survey-college-presidents/

In April 2019, the American Council on Education conducted a Pulse Point survey to which 410 college and university presidents responded. Here are some of the key findings:

  • 80% of presidents indicated that student mental health has become more of a priority on their campus than it was three years ago.
  • 72% of presidents reported they had reallocated or identified additional funding to address the issue over the last three years.
  • About 1/3 of presidents of private nonprofits report hearing once a week or more about students struggling with mental health, and an additional 41% report hearing about these students a few times a month.
  • 84% of presidents of private nonprofits said the top mental health concern they were most likely to hear about was anxiety, and 83% reported depression as a top concern.
  • Presidents at private nonprofits were more likely to hear about non-suicidal self-injury (18%) than other presidents.
  • 90% of presidents agreed or strongly agreed that their staff is spending more time addressing these concerns than they did three years ago.
  • Over half of presidents at private nonprofits indicated that student mental health is mentioned specifically in their strategic plan—much higher than presidents who lead public institutions.

Barnes & Noble College Insights. (2019). Mental health and well-being on campus: How we better care for the whole student. Retrieved from https://knowledge.bncollege.com/mental-health-and-well-being-on-campus

Barnes & Noble Education surveyed 762 college students and 1,708 parents of college students to understand the state of mental and physical well-being among college students. Here are some of the key findings:

  • 24% of students reported that they are extremely or somewhat unhappy with where they are currently in life. Women and first-generation students were more likely to say they were unhappy.
  • 76% of students say they have experienced mental health issues.
  • Among students who report mental health issues, 89% report high levels of stress, 86% experience anxiety, and 66% experience depression.
  • Students manage their mental health issues by talking with family/friends (77%), spending time on hobbies/interests (68%), seeing a professional psychologist/therapist (21%), taking medication (21%), drinking socially (17%), talking with university faculty/advisors (10%), and not doing anything specific (8%).
  • 35% of college students said having open conversations with professors about mental health would help them manage their own well-being.
  • Only 24% of students reported using campus counseling centers. Women were more likely to use them than men, and freshmen were less likely to use them than upperclassmen.
  • The main sources of stress and anxiety for students were getting good grades (79%), finding a balance between different areas of life (74%), paying for tuition and/or room and board (57%), and having friends and a social life (42%).

Several organizations have been developed to support students with mental health issues, especially suicide prevention. Some of these were initiated by students themselves. Here are several of these services:


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