A survey of more than 14,000 college freshmen in 19 colleges across eight countries found that a third of the students reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosable mental health disorder, according to the American Psychological Association.
Major depression was the most common disorder, evinced by 35 percent of the respondents; 30 percent admitted symptoms that indicate a generalized anxiety disorder.
However, only 20 percent of the students sought help at their college counseling centers, the study notes, in part because the centers lack the staff to handle the load.
Colleges are investing heavily in amenities such as gyms and campus cafés to compete for students but are giving short shrift to counseling students in their transitional first year of college. This situation will persist, because the stigma of mental illness as a personal weakness or sign of inadequacy lingers in our cultural consciousness.
Colleges will begin to invest more in students’ mental health support services (and less in in-dorm hair salons) when they realize that those investments will result in fewer dropouts and more graduates, which translate into a more efficient use of college resources. Meanwhile, parents should be prepared to recognize the signs of mental illness in their college-age children and take steps to get them help.