Nearly 60% of college students have received mental health care during their K-12 years, pointing to the mental health crisis in this demographic that has been brewing for some time and that is garnering a growing amount of attention from educators, government leaders and clinicians. TimelyCare, the leading virtual health and well-being solution in higher education, released the survey results in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month.
More than 1,100 actively enrolled college students responded to the mental health survey, all aged 18 to 22 years. As members of Gen Z, these students face unprecedented mental and emotional health challenges and are experiencing worse outcomes than earlier generations. The CDC and the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, have highlighted this trend during the past year in an effort to increase awareness and action around a situation that has become an alarming public health issue. Suicide rates, for example, increased 40% among children and adolescents from 2001 to 2019, while emergency department visits for self-harm rose 88%.
In a 2021 advisory report, Murthy said a “widespread” mental health care crisis is affecting children, adolescents and young adults, and it was only accelerated by the pandemic. Murthy pointed to the far-reaching and long-lasting economic and societal consequences that the country could face without age-appropriate and effective interventions.
TimelyCare’s survey results mirror recent federal government findings that one out of 10 college students who had accessed mental health care services began seeking care as young as elementary school age, while more than 42% experienced their first formal behavioral health care in high school.
Overall, nearly six out of 10 (58%) students accessed mental health services before entering college, according to the TimelyCare survey results. With compounding stressors from various aspects of students’ lives – from everyday pressures such as academics, finances, and basic needs, to societal ones like mass shootings and economic uncertainty – the need for continuing support on campuses is significant. Perhaps most telling, more than three-quarters (77%) of college students reported in the survey that they have a friend who is experiencing mental health challenges or issues.
“Before students even enroll in their first class, they are operating at higher acuity levels than ever before, and they are largely relying on their families for support,” said Hillary Jones, Director of Acute Mental Health Care, Crisis Response, and Care Management at Case Western Reserve University. “Now that they’re away from home, it is critical that campuses normalize student mental health challenges and provide upleveled, comprehensive care that reinforces health and well-being so that students feel more comfortable seeking help from people who are not their parents or siblings.”
According to a recent survey by Inside Higher Ed, about two-thirds of college presidents (65%) indicate that they plan to increase their institution’s capacity to meet the mental health needs of students, staff, and faculty members. While available resources vary from campus to campus, TimelyCare also released “10 Best Practices for Supporting College Students’ Mental Health” – common threads among and examples of colleges and universities comprehensively addressing student mental health challenges as part of their institutional efforts to support student well-being and success.
- Normalize and destigmatize mental health support
- Consider students’ diverse backgrounds, identities, and lived experiences
- Recognize that mental health is a basic need
- Address mental health provider shortage areas
- Address student health and well-being as an entire system
- Support the mental health of faculty and staff
- Provide resources to reach the silent sufferers
- Empower students to take the lead
- Champion student-athlete mental health
- Prepare for and respond to crises with a culture of caring
“While the numbers are overwhelming, it is critical to applaud America’s youth – and their trusted support systems – for taking the important first step of recognizing their need for professional therapeutic support and acting on it,” said Bob Booth, MD, Chief Care Officer for TimelyCare. “As students continue to seek mental health care and gain awareness of mental health issues earlier and earlier, we can expect a tidal wave of students entering college with unprecedented needs for support. Higher education must be ready to meet the growing demand with a comprehensive approach that sets a strong foundation for student success and positive health outcomes.”
TimelyCare is the leading virtual health and well-being solution for higher education. Its mission is to improve the health and well-being of college students by making virtual medical and mental health care accessible anytime, anywhere. TimelyCare includes a range of services, including mental health counseling, on-demand emotional support, medical care, psychiatric care, health coaching, basic needs assistance, faculty and staff guidance, peer support and digital self-care resources. Visit timelycare.com to learn how TimelyCare is inspiring the digital transformation of campus health and the future of student care.