Nearly half of community college students show symptoms of a mental health condition and have a harder time accessing help, according to a 2016 study of 4,300 students across 10 community colleges. But there are simple strategies community colleges can take to foster mental health on campus and catch early warning signs of mental illness, writes Autumn Arnett for Education Dive.
The study demonstrates that 49% of respondents showed at least one symptom of a mental health condition. Symptoms of depression and anxiety were the most common, with 36% and 29% of respondents reporting symptoms, respectively.
The rates were higher among students ages 18 to 24. Around 40% of students in this age group reported signs of depression and 33% reported signs of anxiety. Even more, 23% experienced the most frequent and severe depressive symptoms, compared with just 11% of four-year students in the same age cohort.
To combat this issue, Jackson College in Southeast Michigan is promoting mental health triaging and training faculty, staff, and students to “proactively identify and address signs of mental distress” in themselves and others.
The president and CEO of the college, Jackson Phelan, first decided to implement this strategy to help students who had previously been incarcerated and who were at greater risk of mental illness and substance abuse. He and his administrative staff trained in how to assess risk, provide resources and information, and recommend professional and self-help to students on campus. They also created a safe space—the Oasis Center—on campus where students and staff could meet with counselors and receive support.
Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin is also implementing new strategies to support mental health on campus. Student support counselors at the college work to normalize mental health conversations by teaching classes on professional success, attending student events, and engaging with students in hallways and outside of their offices. This way, mental health awareness is woven into all aspects of life on campus and the burden of seeking help is taken off the students (Arnett, Education Dive, 5/2/18).
Today's students often come to campus burdened with stress and self-doubt, but without the skills to manage their anxieties. Learn how stress is hurting your retention efforts and how you can equip students with valuable stress-management skills to help them succeed.
Read more about student mental health
The number of students seeking mental health services is growing five times faster than enrollment.
As colleges struggle to keep up with the explosion of demand for mental health services, students are taking matters into their own hands.
"It's very unusual to see changes this large happen in such a short period of time," says a co-author of the report.