5 stories to inspire mental health action

Mental health is a widely prioritized issue for student governments nationwide. With a growing number of undergraduate and graduate students living with a mental illness, Mental Health Month (MHM) is a chance to eradicate stigma surrounding these disorders. In honor of MHM, we chose our top five stories of mental illness in higher ed.


1. UCLA scales counseling with digital support

UCLA introduced free online mental health screenings last fall for incoming students to identify symptoms of depression and anxiety, an important resource since 40% of college students have experienced a major depressive episode in the last year.

  • The university screened an estimated 3,500 students
  • The screening helped target resources to 100 students experiencing severe symptoms of depression and anxiety and 600 students experienced minor symptoms
  • The next step is to develop a 10-year study of at least to understand the genetic and environmental factors that play into depression


2. A critical survey on mental health services

In light of a growing number of college students seeking mental health treatment, a 2015 American College Health Association’s survey resurfaced after discovering higher ed is still struggling to keep up with students’ mental health needs. Almost 54% of students report feeling high levels of stress, 60% feel very lonely, and more than 90% feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

  • About 40% of students said it’s hard for them to function due to their depression
  • More than 60% of students said they experience anxiety
  • Student visitation to college campus counseling centers increased by 30%


3. Mental health 'crisis' among grad students

Graduate students are six times more likely to experience depression and anxiety than the general population. A 2018 Nature Biotechnology study found that transgender grad student experience depression at the highest rates.

  • 43% of women had anxiety and 41% were depressed
  • 34% cis men reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and 35% showed signs of depression
  • Roughly 55% of transgender and gender-nonconforming graduate students were more likely to experience anxiety and depression


4. Howard University students demand better campus resources

  • Last month, students at Howard University staged a 9-day sit-in calling for institutional action on, among other things, mental health services. Ultimately, trustees agreed to nearly all student demands, including those to improve mental health on campus. Students demanded a task force to improve the university's Psychiatric and Behavioral Health Services, which currently offers services in child/adolescent and adult outpatient care, emergency psychiatric, and substance abuse.


5. What Mental Health Needs Should Parents Consider When Sending a Child to College?

A January 2018 survey by WebMD/Medscape and JED, an emotional health advocacy group, shed light on the prevalence of stress and anxiety among young adults, pointing out the importance of parents putting more thought into the mental health issues their child may face when going off to college.

  • About 45% of parents say their child has been diagnosed or treated for a mental health issue, learning disorder or substance abuse problem.
  • 17% of all parents say they considered access to on-campus mental health services when deciding on a school for their child
  • Only 28% of parents said they thought about mental health services when shopping for schools


Connect with your graduate student leadership to discuss this issue during MHM and check out resources on mental health advocacy from our friends at Active Minds. They probably have a chapter on your campuses, too.  

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