In 2009, 10.4 percent of college students at four-year institutions sought counseling in search of better mental health, according to the National Survey of College Counseling Center Directors.
“I do believe that some of the increase has to do with the positive phenomenon of decreased stigma about asking for help with mental health issues,” said John DiMino, the director of Tuttleman Counseling Services.
“The percentage varies with the size of the school, with larger schools typically having a lower percentage, but in general, the number of students seeking counseling services is way up across the nation,” DiMino said. “It certainly is true here at Temple.”
The survey suggests the most common conditions seen in students were depression, anxiety and relationship issues. DiMino said other common issues include stress, procrastination, eating disorders and sexuality.
Another poll, gathered from more than 75,000 student responses to a Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory questionnaire found five times as many college students deal with anxiety and other mental health issues as youth of the same age who responded to the same test during the Great Depression.
With studies indicating a growing strain placed on being rich – 77 percent of college freshmen said it was “essential” or “very important” to be financially well off in a 2008 national survey by the Univeristy of California Los Angeles – the findings suggest students could be stressed amid a weakened economy and job market.
“The most compelling statistic is that greater numbers of students are choosing to come in for counseling. Whether they are more anxious due to economic concerns is a good question,” DiMino said.
In recent months, national and local media have covered numerous cases of suicides by young people. Last year, a string of random suicides at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., was labeled a “public health crisis” by the university.
DiMino said he feels many of these cases could have been avoided if the students sought help first.
“I definitely think those students could have benefited by seeing a counselor. There is no telling how many students lives are saved by counselors, but I think the number is very high,” DiMino said.
DiMino offered hypothetical advice to students who feel they have no way to solve a personal problem or struggle with their mental health.
“They should always reach out for help before making such a final decision, and to persist – sometimes with the assistance of family or friends – until they have found a treatment that works,” DiMino said.
DiMino said depression, the illness most commonly linked to suicide, is “very treatable” with psychotherapy and medication.
Students can access counseling services at Tuttleman’s walk-in clinic between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Professional counselors offer free services to all students, and they assure all meetings remain completely confidential.
DiMino said last year, Tuttleman helped more than 2,000 students who weren’t afraid to ask for the assistance.
“At a certain point,” Dimino said, “the desire to solve the problem usually outweighs any embarrassment about asking for help.”
Matt Finn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.