Rates and Predictors of Counseling Center Use among College Students of Color

By Hayes, Jeffrey A.; Youn, Soo Jeong et al. | Journal of College Counseling, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Rates and Predictors of Counseling Center Use among College Students of Color


Hayes, Jeffrey A., Youn, Soo Jeong, Castonguay, Louis G., Locke, Benjamin D., McAleavey, Andrew A., Nordberg, Sam, Journal of College Counseling


A comparison of institutional enrollment data and counseling center service utilization data at 66 universities showed that neither ethnic minority students nor European American students under- or overutilized counseling services (Study I). Data from Study 2 examining students in the general campus bodies at 45 institutions indicated that utilization of counseling center services for students of various ethnicities was predicted by the ethnic composition of the counseling center staff. Among students of color, utilization of campus counseling services was predicted by greater psychological distress, less family support, and a history of previous psychological problems.

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College student mental illness represents a significant public health issue in the United States. Almost half of college-age individuals have a psychiatric disorder, and the prevalence of psychiatric disorders is equally high among young adults who attend college and those who do not (Blanco et al., 2008). According to Hunt and Eisenberg (2010), the number of college students with mental illness is increasing. Eating disorders (Kurth, Krahn, Nairn, & Drewnowski, 1995), self-injurious behavior (Serras, Saules, Cranford, & Eisenberg, 2010), anxiety-related problems (Eisenberg, Gollust, Golberstein, & Hefner, 2007), and alcohol abuse (Cranford, Eisenberg, & Serras, 2009) are common among college students. In fact, evidence has suggested that alcohol use disorders are more prevalent among college students than among adults of similar ages who are not enrolled in college, although college students are less likely than their peers who do not attend college to receive treatment for alcohol use disorders (Blanco et al., 2008). Furthermore, each year 10% of college students seriously consider suicide; 1.5% attempt suicide; and 1,100 commit suicide, making it the second leading cause of death among college students (American College Health Association, 2008; Suicide Prevention Resource Center, 2004). Depression also is prevalent on college campuses. Approximately 10% of college students are diagnosed with or treated for depression on an annual basis, and more than 30% of students report feeling too depressed to function at least once during the past year (American College Health Association, 2008).

Because of the psychological distress they experience, approximately 1.8 million college students seek help from university counseling centers each year (American College Health Association, 2008). Research has indicated that the services provided by college counseling centers are effective at relieving students' psychological distress, facilitating academic functioning, and aiding campus retention efforts (Minami et al., 2009; Vonk & Thyer, 1999; Wilson, Mason, & Ewing, 1997). However, there is some evidence suggesting that utilization of university counseling center services is inconsistent across student racial/ethnic groups. For example, one study found that African American and Latino(a)/ Hispanic students tended to underutilize university counseling center services (Davidson, Yakushka, & Sanford-Martens, 2004). It should be noted, however, that data from this study were gathered only from a single university. Nonetheless, it is important to determine whether barriers exist for ethnic and racial minority students regarding the utilization of college counseling centers. One reason that university counseling center service utilization may be inconsistent across racial and ethnic groups is that some minority students prefer to seek treatment from racial/ethnic minority providers, who often are in short supply (Barksdale & Molock, 2009; Thompson, Bazile, & Akbar, 2004; Townes, Chavez-Korell, & Cunningham, 2009). Racial/ethnic minority students may be hesitant to seek treatment from European American providers because of factors such as cultural mistrust, peer norms related to self-reliance, family norms pertaining to privacy, "double stigma" related to racism and mental illness, and doubts about the availability of culturally sensitive services (Barksdale & Molock, 2009; Braithwaite, Taylor, & Treadwell, 2009; Whaley, 2001).

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