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  • Dr. Shane Owens

The myth of the college mental health crisis

Many believe that college students are facing a mental health crisis. Each year, college counseling centers are flooded with students seeking help for everything from homesickness to break-ups to suicidal behaviors. According to college counseling center directors, these problems are getting worse.

While demand likely has increased, results published in the latest issue of the Journal of College Student Psychotherapy indicate beliefs in increased severity are false.

The study, performed by Dr. Allan Schwartz of the University of Rochester, examined counseling client data from 1992 to 2007. According to Dr. Schwartz’s analysis, there was no change in the severity of the problems that caused the students to seek counseling.

Dr. Schwartz offers some guesses about the false beliefs in increasing acuity. He believes that college counseling has shifted its attention toward more severely impaired students. This is due to increased demand for services and to increased focus on emotional and behavioral issues as opposed to vocational or academic concerns.

While current resources are taxed by the number of students seeking services, there is no evidence of an increase in severity. Effective plans for treating college students must focus on volume, not on the acuity of students’ problems.

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