Self-Injury and Suicidal Thoughts on the Rise Among College Students

More college students in the U.S. are wrestling with self-injury and suicidal thoughts, according to the latest annual report by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health.

The 2014 report issued by the Penn State University organization summarizes mental health issues and determines trends spanning the last 6 years with data collected from over 100,000 students at 140 colleges and universities.

"For the first time, we are learning from a national population why college students seek mental health services and what the rate and effectiveness of those services are," said Ben Locke, the executive director of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health and associate director of Clinical Cervices at Penn State’s Center for Counseling and Psych Services.

This year’s report takes into account for the first time the number of students who use mental health facilities and why students seek the services.

Thousands of counselors nationwide found the top 10 concerns of students, listed in descending order, are:

1. Anxiety
2. Depression
3. Relationship problems
4. Stress
5. Academic performance
6. Family
7. Interpersonal functioning
8. Grief or loss
9. Mood instability
10. Adjustment to a new environment.

According to the report, academic distress is strongly associated with nearly half of college students’ mental health concerns. As such, reducing mental health distress in college students has direct implications for their academics.

Another highlight in this year's report is a recent study by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health which found services provided by college and university counseling centers are as effective for treating depression, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, eating concerns and hostility as randomized controlled trials, known as RCTs.

"The data we have collected through Counseling and Psychological Services has helped justify an additional $300,000 funding for expanded services to help meet the needs of our students at the University Park campus,” said Dennis Heitzmann, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Penn State University.

However, many students don't fully recover. Given the relatively brief average length of treatment — 4.75 sessions — it may be that students are not receiving enough treatment.

The Center for Collegiate Mental Health is a multidisciplinary practice-research-network of college and university counseling centers established at Penn State in 2004 and focused on providing the most accurate and up-to-date information on the mental health of today's college students.

The center’s current and previous annual reports and publications are available here.

SUICIDE PREVENTION: If you know someone who needs help, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us