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Student mental health is in crisis

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Amid massive increases in demand for care, psychologists are helping colleges and universities embrace a broader culture of well-being and better equipping faculty to support students in need
By Zara Abrams

By nearly every metric, student mental health is worsening. During the 2020–2021 school year, more than 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem, according to the Healthy Minds Study, which collects data from 373 campuses nationwide (Lipson, S. K., et al., Journal of Affective Disorders, Vol. 306, 2022). In another national survey, almost three quarters of students reported moderate or severe psychological distress (National College Health Assessment, American College Health Association, 2021).

Even before the pandemic, schools were facing a surge in demand for care that far outpaced capacity, and it has become increasingly clear that the traditional counseling center model is ill-equipped to solve the problem.

Higher caseloads, creative solutions
The number of students seeking help at campus counseling centers increased almost 40% between 2009 and 2015 and continued to rise until the pandemic began, according to data from Penn State University’s Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH), a research-practice network of more than 700 college and university counseling centers (CCMH Annual Report, 2015).

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