I participated in a discussion this week on ABC 7 regarding mental health resources in college. Please click on the link for the full segment video.
I’d like to share some of information that I was not able to discuss on air due to time constraints. I think it is important for families and students to be aware that many colleges provide some type of mental health services to assist their students in being successful. I think these resources are vital to a student’s success. By recognizing the importance of mental health, colleges can ensure well balanced and healthy approaches to academics.
However, college counseling resources are typically expected to be short term with an average length of treatment around 4 sessions. Then arrangement is often made with the student regarding ongoing services which includes utilizing the student’s private health insurance benefits or referring to another provider. On campus counseling services are often best suited for time limited stressors. For instance, when a student’s usual and customary coping skills are no longer adequate to address a stressful situation. For instance, a friend’s death, panic surrounding a test, or a relationship breakup. Often such situations are novel and unexpected.
A private practice clinician outside of the school becomes the best step if issues are not easily resolved during the sessions provided on campus or the level of training and clinical experience is not sufficient to address the presenting concerns. The goal of any counseling is to lessen the intensity, duration, and presence of a stress that is perceived as overwhelming. This is accomplished by shifting the focus from a crisis to a plan of action that is understandable and doable.
Students having difficulties may have increased absences, failing grades and withdrawal from friends but don’t acknowledge any difficulties to their parents whom live in another city. Parents may only become aware of problems once grades are submitted and an entire semester has passed. Trying to pull up grades after they’ve dropped can be intimidating and perceived as impossible which only increases the sense of hopelessness for the student.
I would love to see all colleges develop supports for students who may be at risk of having mental and/or emotional difficulties. If we can identify them early through risk factors such as absences or a decline in grades then we can make the appropriate referrals and help develop the necessary skills to get them back on track.