The mental health of students is a serious concern on college campuses. College students simultaneously manage a heavy course load, busy social lives, internships and extracurricular activities — and they do this all while adjusting to life as an adult. The combination of so many expectations and responsibilities can lead to depression and anxiety. This is by no means a new problem, but studies show that the number of students with mental health issues has increased in recent years, prompting increased need for a University response. The University must respond to students’ needs and devote more resources to developing and improving systems that help students cope.
According to a Nov. 10 article in the Daily, the National College Health Assessment from this past spring found the the number of students with feelings of depression, anxiety, stress and sleep troubles have risen from previous years. This fact worries health officials including Director of University Health Services Dr. Robert Winfield and Tim Davis, associate director of the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services — more commonly referred to as CAPS. To address this problem, UHS is working to start routine student mental health evaluations. CAPS is attempting to increase the size of its staff to accommodate students’ needs.
Officials are unsure of the reason for these recent increases in reported mental health problems. But it’s possible that the decreasing stigma surrounding counseling for the stress of college life has contributed to the rise. More students are also coming into the University with mental health diagnoses and may require continual assistance during their time here. In addition, students must also adjust to and deal with Michigan’s competitive academic environment — an environment that creates high levels of stress. The University should be aware of this concern and ensure that its students are well-informed about where to seek help and advice when they feel overwhelmed.
Mental illnesses often go undiagnosed and untreated, which can allow a small, solvable problem to grow into something potentially unmanageable. UHS’s plan to expand mental health screenings should help decrease how often these problems go unnoticed. This is a crucial service — and students should make use of it if they begin to feel unreasonably stressed, depressed or otherwise unwell.
Though diagnosing an issue is important, it’s only half of the battle. The next part of the process is treatment. Students at the University are fortunate to have the CAPS program available, but they need to be able to access it. Currently, CAPS simply can’t handle the influx of students who need its services — there are too many students seeking counseling and not enough employees or space to accommodate everyone in a timely manner. The University must make sure that CAPS has the necessary resources to adequately meet all students’ needs.
Mental illness as a result of stress is an unfortunate reality for college students, but it doesn’t need to cripple students’ functioning. The University should increase funding and resources to CAPS and encourage students to participate in screenings. It should do everything possible to help students — and make them aware that help is available.