Mental illness more common in college students than it was a decade ago

August 15th, 2010 - 3:01 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Aug 15 (ANI): Severe mental illness is more common among college students than it used to be a decade ago, with more young people arriving on campus with pre-existing conditions and a willingness to seek help for emotional distress, revealed a new study.

The data support what college mental health professionals have noted for some time.

“In the last 10 years, a shift in the needs of students seeking counseling services is becoming apparent. University and college counseling services around the country are reporting that the needs of students seeking services are escalating toward more severe psychological problems. While the condition of students seeking counseling doesn’t necessarily reflect the experience of the average college student, our findings may suggest that students with severe emotional stress are getting better education, outreach and support during childhood that makes them more likely to attend college than in the past,” said Dr. John Guthman, author of the study and director of student counselling services at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY.

The researchers looked at the records of 3,256 college students who accessed college counselling support between September 1997 and August 2009 at a mid-sized private university.

In 1998, 93 percent of the students coming into the clinic were diagnosed with one mental disorder, said Guthman.

In 2009, 96 percent of students seeking treatment met criteria for diagnosis with at least one mental disorder.

Most students were diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders as well as adjustment disorders or problems associated with significant impairment in functioning.

There were no significant class or age differences.

“Overall, the average quality of depression and anxiety experienced by students in counselling has remained constant and relatively mild during the last decade,” said Guthman.

“However, the percentage of students with moderate to severe depression has gone up from 34 to 41 percent. “These outliers often require significantly more resources and may contribute greatly to the misperception that the average student is in distress,” he added.

The rise in the more severe cases of depression and anxiety in college students may be because more students are coming to college with pre-existing mental health difficulties, said Guthman.

The study also found that the number of students on psychiatric medicines increased more than 10 percentage points.

The study was presented at the 118th annual convention of the American Psychological Association. (ANI)

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