After launching a six-month investigation on their ‘#undercovered’ series, NBC’s Today revealed their findings about mental health on college campuses in late June. The study found that students are being kicked out of school for seeking mental health help. Alarming as this is, it isn’t new, students being forced out after receiving mental health treatment has been reported before.
In light of these investigations, the question becomes: are colleges and universities equipped to take care of their students? When a student seeks, or is in dire need of, mental health intervention, and is instead told they are no longer allowed to attend the university for the “sake of saving face,” students have the right to question their university’s priorities. In a country where around 44% of college students report having symptoms of depression- the accessibility of care is matter of life and death.
Many of us are scratching our heads at the news that the famed University of Chicago had forcibly admitted students to psychiatric wards after they sought counseling (even though they had not been a threat to themselves or others). Reportedly they were afterwards served with a forced mental health leave of absence. And this isn’t an isolated case. In fact, the 6 month study found that this happened to at least twenty-two students across ten different colleges and universities- and it wouldn’t be outlandish to believe there are many more cases of this that are going unreported.
It’s no secret that depression and anxiety have risen among college students in the last few decades. Blame this on what you’d like— may it be crushing amounts of debt, fear of independence, overwhelming workloads, doubts about the future— the effects are all the same. 1 out of 4 college students suffers from some form of mental illness, including depression and anxiety. Here are some need-to-know quick stats on mental health and college students, courtesy of Healthline:
- 44 percent of American college students report having symptoms of depression
- 75 percent of college students do not seek help for mental health problems
- suicide is the third leading cause of death among college students
- young people diagnosed with depression are five times more likely to attempt suicide than adults
- 19 percent of young people in the United States either contemplate or attempt suicide every year
- 4 out of every 5 college students who either contemplate or attempt suicide show clear warning signs
According to the facts above, 75% of college students who need help, don’t seek it. So, what about the 25% who do? Depressed and anxious college students who are seeking help are instead being punished for doing the right thing. With suicide being the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults (aged 15-24), it’s inconceivable that in a time of crisis a university would even consider asking a student to withdraw from the university, as if they weren’t going through a hard enough time. When universities start putting their PR wrap before the care of their students, there is no question that their priorities are backwards.
With the already prevalent stigma against mental health disorders, students are going to be even less likely to seek help in the most desperate of times, which can be detrimental. Colleges and universities are practically telling their students to suck it up or get lost- and it’s really not that easy.
So, what can universities do to help their students? It’s not rocket science. Instate actually helpful and available psychiatric services. Some universities have instilled acute psychiatric services, offering students twenty-four hour walk in counseling services in case of crises- considering anxiety attacks and depressive episodes don’t operate on a regular work day schedule. Implementations like these let students know the university supports their students, and are in it for the long run; “in sickness and in health”.
At Alliant University, we offer psychiatric services to our students and community members at all six of our California campuses (San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Fresno, Irvine, and Sacramento). Student Life Services aims to ensure the mental, physical, and spiritual health of all students and staff in their quest for career and educational development. At our Counseling and Psychological Services Center, we offer several types of counseling services including marital and family counseling. Although our center is not open 24/7, we do offer crises hotlines on my.alliant.edu, specific to each campus.
The chorus of mental health professionals encouraging people to seek help is being drowned out by fears of retribution. Students must already overcome stigma, sometimes even denial, and accessibility barriers to seeks the care they need, university policies that add the fear of being forced out of school are— to put it simply—dangerous and disgraceful. Universities must ensure that they prioritize the psychological wellbeing of their students, just as they would the psychical. If elementary schools forced students out of school for going to the nurse for a scraped knee, there would be far more children running around with open wounds…let’s make sure our college students can get the help they need and are not wounded further for doing so.
If you think that you or a loved one is in need of mental health intervention, consider making an appointment or call one of these hotlines for help. If it is an emergency, please call 911.
For more information on Alliant International University’s Psychiatric Services, visit https://my.alliant.edu/ICS/Alliant_Departments/Student_Life/Counseling_Center/