The American Psychological Association calls the state of mental health on college campuses a growing crisis. A nationwide survey in 2010 said that 44 percent students seeking help on campus had severe psychological problems, a sharp increase from 16 percent in 2000¹ .
Students with mental illness – depression, anxiety, trauma or other conditions – may struggle to succeed in college. And they may affect others, including classmates, roommates, faculty and staff with potentially disruptive and even dangerous behavior.
Adequate mental health services are essential to the students’ success and to a healthier campus life. That’s why NBHIC is working with leaders from all four campuses of the University of Colorado on a system-wide approach to fill gaps in student care.
It is a complicated challenge. There are about 60,000 enrolled students across the campuses – the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder), University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver), and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. Undergraduate and graduate, they are from all 50 states and around the world. The student body is diverse and large, and every student is unique.
Partners on the CU campuses are moving forward on this project’s key initiative: engaging The JED Foundation, which is unique in its national work to prevent student suicide prevention and promote mental health. Together with JED, they will map mental health resources on each campus, the first step in detecting both a local and system-wide needs assessment. The strategic plan development that follows may be one of the rare instances of a system-wide commitment to a mental health strategy for students combined with campus specific actions.
Students have always heard that “real-life” is what happens after graduation. But this is mental health in the real world. With a commitment to student mental wellness system wide, CU could forge a path that other universities can follow.
¹National Survey of Counseling Center Directors