The independent student news organization of Nicholls State University

Submitted: Mental Health Care on College Campuses

November 24, 2017

On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed thirty-two people and injured seventeen more
in two separate attacks on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. At
the time, it was the deadliest shooting carried out by a single gunman in U.S. history. Seung-Hui
Cho had been previously diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder, but was not under clinical care
at the time of the shooting. Over the years, many have wondered if this event could have been
prevented if Seung-Hui would have received the appropriate mental health care. Each tragic
event, explosive research report, or wave of student led protests on a college campus adds to the
growing realization among college administrators that mental health is a major concern. But
providing adequate resources for mentally ill students is a significant challenge due to lack of
funding and because the student body itself has changed — colleges aren’t currently equipped to
serve a generation of students who are, increasingly, entering college with a mental illness.

In their 2016 annual report, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health found that 49.6% of
the institutions surveyed did not have counseling centers currently accredited by the International
Association of Counseling Services. They also found that only 13.2% of these institutions had
full-time, in house psychiatric services provided by college centers. Mental health issues among
college students have been increasing over the past few years, which means that the need for
mental health services has also been on the rise. Another reason for the uptick in demand is the
fact that mental health treatment has actually improved greatly. Students who previously
wouldn’t have been able to attend college can now go because of advancements made in
medication and other forms of treatment, according to Maggie Bertram, Associate Director of
Training and Education at Active Minds, a national mental health advocacy organization. That
means more students have access to a college education, but it also means university counseling
centers have a harder time keeping up with their students’ needs.

This increasing demand for mental health care reflects a number of positive movements –
breaking down of stigmas against mental illnesses, more diverse student bodies, and better
access to college. However, it also puts colleges in a difficult position. One of the greatest issues
facing mental health care on a college campus is lack of funding. Many schools don’t have
enough counselors to accommodate for larger student bodies. Ben Locke, senior director of
Counseling and Psychological Services at Penn State, says that, “ideally, the counselor-to- student
ratio is one counselor to about one thousand students.” For smaller schools, like Nicholls, it may
not be hard to hire and fund a handful of counselors. But, for larger state schools that may have a
student population of over forty-thousand, finding adequate funding for an appropriate number
of counselors may not be within the school’s budget. Perhaps a solution to the issue of funding
may lie within student fees. Most universities charge students obscure fees associated with
athletics, energy use, and many others. A greater percentage of the student population would
likely benefit from a mental healthcare fee than they would a fee to pay the stipends of athletes.

But simply providing adequate counseling services does not necessarily solve the
problem. Mental health on college campuses has always been a complicated issue, with causes
and effects that researchers are still trying to figure out. Although there is no simple solution to
‘fix’ mental health care services on college campuses, administration still needs to be made
aware of its importance. There will always be students who need help, we just need to make sure
that help is provided to them.

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