April 21, 2009

Gauging Mental Health On College Campuses

Researchers at Penn State University have conducted what they are referring to as the first-ever attempt by college counseling centers to reveal the current state of mental health issues on college campuses.

Analysts at the Center for the Study of Collegiate Mental Health hope the new study will address a growing gap in data on the mental health of US college students.

While individual campuses have respective methods of getting the pulse of community mental health issues, there has been no real effort to compile a nationwide analysis, researchers told the Associated Press.

Ben Locke, executive director of the center, told the AP that the new data should help college campuses develop better-aimed programs to deal with the mental health issues of students.

"Mental health affects every aspect of a college student's functioning," said Locke.

"The earlier you intervene in mental health issues, the more likely you are to be successful in treating it."

Analysis from the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors estimated that about 1 in 10 college students seek treatment from campus counseling centers.

However, the Penn State Center's study represents the first to gather data from the counseling centers themselves, the AP reported.

"This is actual data from the counseling centers: the clients who are coming in, what they're saying," said Robert Rando, the director of counseling and wellness services at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

"It's accurate in that way, and no one has done that."

The study combines data from more than 130 schools in the US that have registered with the Center. Overall, 66 campuses participated in the initial study, with responses from more than 28,000 students who received mental health services in fall 2008.

Participating universities are required to pay an annual fee of $150 to the Center.

Rando referred to an increased concern about the state of mental health on college campuses due to the apparent rise in use of medications such as antidepressants among high school students.

Researchers said the concept of the Center had been under way well before the infamous killing of 33 people on the campus of Virginia Tech.

"What this effort will do will keep our work in the forefront, identify the importance of our function before the administration, parents and students themselves," Dennis Heitzmann, director of counseling and psychological services at Penn State, told the AP.

The study found that 93 percent of students who responded to a question about campus violence "had little to no fear of losing control and acting violently," said the AP.

The remaining 7 percent consisted of more males than females and admitted to harming someone in the past


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