NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

College Students Display Wider Range of Psychological Problems

February 3, 2003

A study conducted by the counseling center at Kansas State University reveals that the emotional problems facing college students are far more complex and severe than those seen in the past.

  • From 1989 to 2001, the percentage of students treated for depression doubled, as did the proportion of suicidal students.
  • The percentage of students taking some type of psychiatric medication also doubled -- even though the absolute number of students seen by the center remained stable.
  • Problems related to stress, anxiety, learning disabilities, family issues, grief and sexual assault also rose.
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions are perhaps the most vexing problem -- and in a 2002 national survey, counseling service directors reported a total of 116 suicides at 55 colleges.

Mental health professionals at other college counseling services said the study confirmed their impression that students are now struggling with more serious forms of distress.

While the reasons for the increases are not clear, professionals theorize that an easing of the stigma of seeking psychiatric help may play a role. They also cite the pressures on students to succeed academically and the breakdown of family support systems.

Source: Erica Goode, "More in College Seek Help for Psychological Problems," New York Times, February 3, 2003.


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