How higher ed is struggling to provide mental health services

A community college has stopped on-campus counseling and a university student waits six weeks for services

Counselors at Pennsylvania’s largest community college recently ended individual and group counseling, sparking anger and disappointment from students, reported Pittsburgh Post-GazetteHarrisburg Area Community College students now must see a dean of student affairs who then refers them to off-campus counseling providers rather than benefiting from a college mental health offering on campus.

Mental health among college students is poor. Only 4 in 10 students have good mental health and flourish on college campuses, according to a recent report. Meanwhile, the percentage of students with previous diagnoses or treatments for depression increased from approximately 9% in 2009 to more than 20% in 2019

From UB: Counseling centers are putting control back into the hands of students through technology

A sophomore at Northeastern University recently called her university’s health and counseling services center for help and was told she had to wait about six weeks before she could see anyone, Vice reported.  

During the 2017-18 academic year, students at more than 160 colleges and universities had to wait for more than three weeks for an initial college mental health counseling appointment and then wait even longer for subsequent sessions, according to a recent report

Related: 5 most common accommodations for college students with disabilities

And even though California passed a budget this summer that includes $5.3 million for improving mental health services in the University of California system, the growing demand for counseling over the past two decades requires much more funding, said Emily Estus, a researcher at Berkeley Institute for Young Americans and Well Being Trust, in an Op-Ed for, a nonprofit media venture.

Adding telemedicine programs

Campus counseling centers have been implementing mobile mental health-focused technology tools, Sherry Benton, founder and chief science officer of  anxiety treatment provider TAO Connect, wrote in a University Business op-ed.

Wesleyan University in Ohio, for example, uses 98point6 to improve mental health among college students. The health care app lets students connect on-demand with primary care physicians via text. 

From UB: TeleHELP in higher ed

“By giving students the mental health resources they need—where and in a way students need them—universities are allowing students to take control of their mental health,” added Benton, who was formerly the director of  the University of Florida’s counseling center. 

“While on-demand mental health tools will not replace traditional therapy, they are expanding the reach of on-campus counseling centers and providing relief to students when anxiety strikes—in the middle of the night or before an exam.”

Resources: First aid to improve mental health among college students

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