Anxiety, Depression and More

Survey outlines the many challenges facing campus counseling centers -- and finds some increase in staffing.

May 12, 2015
 

For the fifth year in a row, anxiety is the top condition of students seeking care at campus counseling centers, according to a survey released Monday night by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors.

Before the last five years, depression was the top condition for which students sought treatment, but that now is a strong second. And many students of course come to counseling centers with multiple conditions. The survey (for 2014) provides a snapshot, through data provided by the centers, of the mental health of college students and the issues they (or at least those seeking help at the counseling centers) are facing.

The following table shows the mean percentage of students reporting to centers with these conditions. Anxiety and depression are each up a percentage point from the previous year, but most of the other conditions at the top of the list are fairly consistent.

Condition Mean %
Anxiety 47%
Depression 40%
Relationship issues 34%
Taking psychotropic medication 25%
Suicidal thoughts/behaviors 18%
Extensive or significant prior treatment history 15%
Engaging in self-injury 12%
Alcohol abuse/dependency 11%
Learning disability 9%
ADD or ADHD 9%
Sexual/physical assault or rape 9%
Substance abuse (besides alcohol) 8%
Eating disorders 8%
Issues of oppression (racism, sexism, etc.) 7%
Being stalked 2%

The survey also tracks a number of other issues, such as whether the students served in counseling centers reflect the demographics of the student bodies. Here the survey finds that counseling centers seem to be doing well at reaching racially and ethnically diverse populations.

But gender continues to be an area of concern. Male students make up, on average, 44 percent of the student population at the colleges in the survey, but they make up only 34 percent of those who seek care at counseling centers.

A major area of concern for many counseling center directors in recent years has been an increased demand for services, without increased staff. Here the survey had some good news. More than half (54 percent) of counseling centers reported that they gained additional clinical or psychiatric staff during the last year. That compares to 30 percent the prior year.

The need for additional staff is reflected in data on waiting lists to see a counselor. While centers do an initial evaluation and triage, many lack the staff for full sessions with students who seek them. The following table shows, by enrollment level, the number of weeks during the past year that counseling centers, on average, had a waiting list, and the maximum number of students on the waiting list.

Enrollment # Weeks With Waiting List Largest # Students on Waiting List
Under 1,500 7 8
1,501-2,500 8 10
2,501-5,000 10 12
5,001-7,500 8 16
7,501-10,000 14 40
10,001-15,000 14 32
15,001-20,000 18 46
20,001-25,000 16 38
25,001-30,000 20 61
30,001-35,000 21 43
35,001 and up 18 61

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