On Oct. 15, University Health Service published the National Health Assessment Survey, a study that looks at general health indicators of the student body. The results of this survey provide a useful tool for identifying positive and negative health trends of University students. The Michigan Daily Editorial Board has isolated three main topics for analysis: Alcohol and drug abuse, mental health, and sexual health and relationships. This editorial focuses on the mental health of the student body.
The University used the NCHA guidelines to survey students covering about 30 different factors affecting academic performance. Results indicated that stress and anxiety were the two leading factors that impeded students’ academic performances. Among undergraduate students, 31 percent of respondents indicated stress as a factor affecting their academic performance, and 22 percent reported being affected by anxiety. These results show a growth from 2010 numbers of 25 and 17 percent, respectively. Eighteen and 14 percent of graduate student respondents said stress and anxiety affected their academic performance.
While these statistics are near the American College Health Association’s 2013 national averages of 27.9 percent and 19.7 percent for stress and anxiety, these concerning numbers suggest the start of an upward trend and and should be taken seriously by University administrators.
The University can begin by further promoting the tuition-funded services offered through Counseling and Psychological Services, located on the third floor of the Michigan Union. Though CAPS has faced criticism from students in the past, CAPS administrators have revamped its services in order to better accommodate students. Most commendably, the wait time for an appointment decreased from a period of one to three weeks to a period of one to three days.
“What we, as a staff, listened to was this critique that the wait for CAPS was too long. We overhauled the old system in response. We had to completely change our mindset,” CAPS Director Todd Sevig said in an interview with the Daily. With the consideration of student input in its expansion and the implementation of innovative programs, such as the awareness events at the Michigan Theater, other University units must actively help promote CAPS’ endeavors and help students become more aware of its services.
Furthermore, University promotion of student-led initiatives on campus in support of mental health will encourage students to take advantage of available services by spreading awareness and destigmatizing their use. For example, the Central Student Government’s Wolverine Support Network is an initiative in which student mentors, who are trained by CAPS in a three-day retreat, will meet weekly to help students work through their issues beginning in January 2015.
Reports of stress and anxiety may appear to be common, everyday challenges, and thus undeserving of such attention. But willful disregard for basic mental health will certainly lead to larger and more serious disorders that can have devastating effects. By working to lower the stress and anxiety levels of its students, the University can prevent future cost and illness while improving students’ daily lives.