The vast majority of college students are struggling with anxiety, burnout, or depression, but few are using student mental health services.

Many students struggle, but few use mental health resources


A survey suggests the vast majority of college students are struggling at least somewhat with anxiety, burnout, and/or depression, but few report using college mental health services

Key points:

Mental health issues are increasing on college campuses, affecting the vast majority of college students, according to the results of a new survey by Wiley.

The report, The Student Mental Health Landscape, shows more than 80 percent of college students say they are struggling emotionally at least somewhat, with more than a fourth saying they are struggling significantly. And 58 percent say they are dealing with declining mental and emotional health.

Students are largely dealing with anxiety (59 percent) and burnout (58 percent), followed by depression (43 percent).

The pandemic appears to have fueled the mental health crisis among these students, as 60 percent of respondents noted that their mental and emotional health has been negatively impacted by that global ordeal.

They also are facing a wider range of emotional disorders since the pandemic, with burnout, COVID-related issues, and ADHD on the rise.

“Student mental and emotional health continues to grow as a problem on college campuses,” said Amanda Miller, Wiley group vice president, Academic Publishing Group. “We urge college officials and instructors to seek out ways to help reduce the strain it creates for students, staff members, and loved ones alike.”

Other challenges

Students cite a number of challenges they are facing in addition to declining emotional health, including balancing school with work or family (59 percent), paying for tuition (50 percent) and living expenses (49 percent), and uncertainty on how to best prepare for a future career (41 percent).

They are also struggling with engagement and retention in the classroom, confirming the findings of Wiley’s 2023 State of the Student report. Around six in 10 (61 percent) say staying engaged and remaining interested in classes is a challenge.

Most students turn to friends and family for support; few turn to college health services

To help deal with their emotional and mental health struggles, most students (83 percent) say they are turning to their friends and family for support. A much smaller number say they use social media sites and blogs or a counselor or therapist outside of school, with only 14 percent saying they are using college health services.

Around a third of students say they are seeking out more counseling for their mental health post-pandemic, with almost half saying they are doing so due to the negative impact the pandemic had on their emotional health.

“The student mental health crisis is real, and evident every single day in my classroom,” said Catherine A. Sanderson, co-author of Psychological Science, Real World Psychology and Psychology in Action. “Students worry about on-going pressures in their current lives and their future lives. Understanding these pressures and the strategies that work to help students feel both engaged and supported is essential for all instructors.”

“Transitioning into college is a significant life event, and the more students are struggling with their mental health before this transition, the more support they need,” said Dr. Hayley Watson, clinical psychologist and author of Finding the Words: Empowering Struggling Students through Guided Conversations. “Colleges should focus on well-being as a primary concern in students’ first year of entry. Offering classes that focus on teaching mindfulness, personal growth, and mental health skills can provide students with the tools they need to navigate the challenges they face and make a significant impact on the mental health of the next generation.”

Recommendations

The report offers a number of recommendations for instructors and institutions to help address the growing student mental health crisis they are facing, including the following:

  • Addressing students’ preference for hybrid learning: Schools will need to offer more flexible and hybrid programs to keep up with students’ changing needs and challenges.
  • Increasing student engagement: Offering more engaging class discussions and group projects can potentially help increase engagement, making it easier for students to focus and retain the material and decrease emotional stress.
  • Providing more instructor support: Nearly half of students cite that getting extra support from their instructors resulted in a positive impact on their mental and emotional health.
  • Maximizing opportunities for peer support: Creating more opportunities for students to interact with each other and connect with peers they can relate to can help elevate some of their emotional struggles.

This report is the second in a series of three surveys focusing on mental health issues among practitioners, students, and faculty. The first report, The Psychology Practitioner: Navigating High Demand, Burnout, and Telemedicine, issued in December 2023, revealed that mental health practitioners are seeing an increasing number of patients since the pandemic, leading them to struggle with burnout and managing their own emotional health.

This press release was originally published online.

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