College Campuses See Rise in Cases of Severe Mental Illness

More cases of severe mental illness are being reported among college students than a decade ago, as more young people with mental health issues tackle a post secondary education and are open to getting help when they need it, a new U.S. study shows. The use of prescription medications by students to treat psychiatric illness has also risen significantly over the past decade, the research team noted. "If we look at the average college student and their level of psychological and emotional functioning and distress, on the whole they are not necessarily worse off than they were 10 years ago," explained study author John C. Guthman, director of student counseling at Hofstra University's division of student affairs.

"However, there are some students who are outliers and they have some difficulty in some areas. And these relatively few students that present in significant distress seem to have increased to a greater percentage than they were a decade ago." Guthman and his colleagues are to report their findings Thursday at the American Psychological Association annual meeting, in San Diego. The authors noted that their observations appear to be in line with what mental health professionals have observed and reported anecdotally in recent years.

To get a handle on the current state of affairs, Guthman and his team analyzed diagnostic records concerning nearly 3,300 undergraduate and graduate students who had sought college counseling at some point in the 10 years between 1997 and 2009. After examining intake information concerning mental disorders, suicidal tendencies and behavioral reports, the team determined that over the years most students had been diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders and that, on average, the nature of these cases had remained relatively mild over time.
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