Sixty-one percent of students feel overwhelming anxiety, according to a report from the American College Health Association survey of more than 63,000 students at 92 schools. Another survey from META, which developed a teletherapy app designed exclusively for colleges, shows that 81 percent of students say they suffer from a mental health condition.
But while students sometimes struggle to manage these conditions, they aren’t always seeking help from on-campus counseling centers.
META’s survey results reveal three reasons students aren’t using their institution’s counseling centers and how universities can support students outside of on-campus mental health resources.
Students don’t have time
College students are busier than ever balancing academic, extracurricular, and social activities. With so much going on, it’s easy to see why students don’t have time to seek out on-campus mental health resources. In fact, 57 percent of students’ reported that their schedules don’t allow time to seek a therapist on campus.
When students are juggling multiple responsibilities, it’s difficult for them to visit their universities’ counseling centers during normal business hours. Typically, on-campus therapists aren’t available evenings or weekends when students have more time to meet. Additionally, most counseling centers don’t have the capacity to accept walk-ins and require students to schedule appointments weeks in advance. Because most students want immediate care (81 percent would like support within 1 week), they often end up canceling or not showing up at all. According to META’s survey, 68 percent of students say it takes a week or longer to receive support from an on-campus counseling center. At some schools, counselors are stretched so thin that it can be impossible to book an appointment within a reasonable amount of time.
Given the demand, many campus counseling centers struggle to address every student in need. According to a recent article in the Associated Press, the number of students receiving mental health treatment has grown by 35 percent, but the number of licensed counselors hasn’t kept up. Public institutions are doing everything within their budgets to accommodate the growing demand. Recently, Illinois passed the Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act, mandating public colleges in Illinois to provide one clinical, non-student staff member to every 1,250 students. In 2020, expect to see more states take similar actions to address the growing mental health concerns.
Students don’t feel comfortable
Even though college counseling center utilization has gone up, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health services. The possibility of faculty or classmates finding out a student is in therapy before they’re ready to share that information can be stressful. In fact, 49 percent of students don’t want to be seen walking into a counseling center. Privacy is a major concern of students, and while counseling centers take measures to protect privacy, students fear that others will still become aware.
When asked if they feel comfortable utilizing the on-campus resources offered to them, only 20 percent of students responded with either “very comfortable” or “extremely comfortable.” Female students feel even less comfortable than their male counterparts, with only 16 percent saying they feel comfortable going to their counseling center. This suggests that even though more students are using university services, there are still many students who are not receiving the help they need.
Students lack information
While most campuses offer on-campus counseling centers, students may not know where to go or how to make an appointment. On large campuses, it can be frustrating to find the location of the counseling center if the student isn’t familiar with it. Thirty-six percent of students reported they don’t know where the counseling center is on their college campus.
First-year students can also experience a lot of stress adapting to a new environment and often get lost navigating when directions or transportation aren’t easily accessible. This lack of information is leading students to ultimately not seek help at all.
While universities are doing everything they can to expand resources, they are not alone in addressing the mental health needs of students. Key partnerships with teletherapy solutions are allowing universities to grow mental health resources in a cost-effective manner. Students can select therapists based on their preferences via smartphone. This allows students to receive counseling with complete privacy at their convenience, providing students with access to providers outside of the normal Monday thru Friday, 9 am to 5 pm availability. Additionally, students can also pay via insurance, removing any additional stress around paying for the service.
Adding these solutions can help universities bridge the gap and give students the counseling services they need where they feel the most comfortable and on their own schedule.