How data is changing the way colleges approach mental health support

Colleges are taking a more proactive approach to mental health support, Alina Tugend writes for the New York Times.

The move is prompted by alarming data about the mental health situation on campuses, Tugend writes. She cites research from the University of California, Los Angeles' Higher Education Research Institute's annual survey finding a  record 11.9% of freshmen reported in 2016 that they "frequently" felt depressed across the previous year. Tugend also reports that the number of college students who say they have intentionally injured themselves rose from 21.8% to nearly 26% from the 2010-2011 school year to the 2015-2016 year, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University.

A "stepped" approach to mental health care that aims to cut wait times

A few universities in North Carolina and one in South Carolina are using a grant from the Duke Endowment to follow students admitted in 2014 until they graduate. For the grant program, students complete surveys on mental health throughout their undergraduate careers, and colleges use the data to understand trends in mental health on campus, writes Tugend.  

In response to early findings from the project, several participating institutions are launching new efforts to support student mental health, Tugend reports.

For example, Furman University has launched a grief group run by external counselors. When Furman officials first launched the group, they were surprised at the number of students who have lost a loved one, says Connie Carson, the university's VP for student life.

To alleviate strain on the counseling center, Davidson College uses a system that directs students with less acute symptoms to a web-based program, helping counselors focus their time on students with the most severe symptoms. The college also recruits volunteers to staff art carts around campus, which offer students a break with arts and crafts (Tugend, New York Times, 6/7).

Demand for mental health services is higher than ever

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