College Mental Health Study Measures Student Access to Mental Health Services Four Years after Virginia Tech Tragedy
Virginia College Mental Health Study
Prepared for the Joint Commission on Health Care
General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia
By Richard J. Bonnie
Almost half a million students attend Virginia's colleges and universities. About 45% attend one of the 15 four-year public colleges, 17% attend one of the 25 four-year private colleges, and 38% attend one of the 24 public two-year colleges (including the 23 community colleges). It is well known that young adulthood is the period of onset for major mental disorders and is often characterized by intensive use of alcohol and other drugs. Based on national data as well as the data available in Virginia, it is likely that at least 46,000 of Virginia's college students are experiencing significant mental health concerns and are in need of psychological assistance at any given time. According to the Virginia College Mental Health Survey (VCMHS), at least 11 Virginia college students committed suicide and at least 86 more attempted suicide during 2008-09. However, based on national data, we estimate that there were approximately 2300 attempted suicides and approximately 30 completed suicides among college students during that year.
Each college and university that has not already done so should establish a planning group for involving and guiding students in clinically, culturally, ethically and legally appropriate roles in campus-based mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
Access to Services in Residential Colleges
The best way of preventing mental health crises is to assure that people experiencing mental or emotional stresses or disturbances have expeditious access to mental health services before events spiral out of control. This challenge is no less important in a college environment than it is in the community at large. Research shows that participation in college counseling services increases student retention and graduation rates.
All of the 15 four-year public colleges and 22 of the 25 private colleges offered mental health counseling services to enrolled students (generally full-time students). Using the International Association of Counseling Services standards as a guide, the majority of private colleges in Virginia meet the minimum requirement of one counselor per 1,500 students while the majority of counseling centers in the public colleges do …
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Publication information: Article title: College Mental Health Study Measures Student Access to Mental Health Services Four Years after Virginia Tech Tragedy. Contributors: Not available. Magazine title: Developments in Mental Health Law. Volume: 31. Issue: 1 Publication date: December 2011. Page number: 1+. © 2009 Institute of Law, Psychiatry & Public Policy. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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