Helping College Students with Their Mental Health

Transitioning to college can be a stressful time for young adults. For some, it’s the first time they’ve been away from home. They’re beginning a new chapter, many times without close friends or family nearby for support. On top of that, they’re making choices that may affect the rest of their life. It’s no wonder that one-third of college freshmen struggle with a mental disorder, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

adolescent girl at therapist

Adding anxiety, depression or struggles with addiction to all of the change may prevent a student from flourishing. But this student isn’t alone. Anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, eating disorders and self-injury are common disorders among college students. And suicide has become the second leading cause of death among this group of students. 

“The peak onset of anxiety disorders is in early adulthood,” said Dana Tasson, MD, member of American College Health Association’s Board of Directors and associate vice provost for health and wellbeing at Portland State University. “These students feel overwhelmed, unable to concentrate, not able to enjoy usual activities, and have persistent worry or anxiety that is disruptive to their daily functioning.” 

Tasson notes the reduction of stigma around mental health has brought forward more students seeking help. But now, it’s a crisis that stems from limited resources and access to care on college campuses, and it’s a concern across the country. 

“We are learning that health and wellbeing need to be more fully integrated into the college experience and valued by the institution from the top down,” Tasson said.  

To help address this issue, the American College Health Foundation and UnitedHealthcare StudentResources have partnered to develop a program that addresses the increasing mental health needs of college students. 

From the partnership, the National College Well-Being and Depression Playbook will be created as a best-practices guide for on-campus counseling. The resource will demonstrate evidence-based and experimental innovations that have been applied on college campuses and have worked to address mental health.

In addition, a National College WellStart Program will bring together experts in the field to create a comprehensive training program for incoming first-year students. The program will teach new students how to maintain positive psychology and will provide them with resources to help them thrive in a college environment. 

“We believe this program can help promote and enhance the well-being of our nation’s college students by researching, testing and sharing innovative practices in campus well-being,” said Bill Truxal, president of UnitedHealthcare StudentResources.

The National College Well-Being and Depression Playbook and the launch of the National College WellStart Program are expected to be released by 2020.