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Mental Health Needs Are Rising at Colleges

According to a 2010 survey conducted by the American College Counseling Association, serious mental health problems are increasing among university students. In the words of one university counselor, "It's so different from how people might stereotype the concept of college counseling, or back in the '70s with students coming in [and asking]: who am I? Now they're bringing in life stories involving extensive trauma, a history of serious mental illness, eating disorders, self-injury, alcohol and other drug use."

Recent surveys about this trend have revealed the following statistics:

  • A majority of students still seek help for "normal post-adolescent trouble" like romantic breakups and life direction questions;
  • But in 2010, 44 percent of the students who came to university counseling centers were suffering from severe psychological disorders, a 16 percent increase from 2000;
  • 24 percent of students who utilized the university's counseling services were on psychiatric medication, up 7 percent from 2000;
  • 28 percent of the university counselors reported a marked increase in student violence on campuses over the last five years;
  • Nearly a third of all university students (not just those who seek counseling) reported that in the last 12 months they've been so depressed that it's difficult to function.

Experts say that the rise in mental health issues is partially linked to more effective drugs, which have allowed students to attend college who may not have attended in the past. But they also point to a wave of traumas that were either less frequent or underreported, including on-campus sexual assault, bulimia, self-cutting, learning disabilities, childhood sexual abuse, and the fear of campus shootings.

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