Colleges Ramp Up Mental Health Aid; Cash-Strapped Universities across the Country Are Digging Deeply to Bolster Mental Health Services for Millennials. [Derived Headline]

By Erdley, Debra | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 24, 2016 | Go to article overview

Colleges Ramp Up Mental Health Aid; Cash-Strapped Universities across the Country Are Digging Deeply to Bolster Mental Health Services for Millennials. [Derived Headline]


Erdley, Debra, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Cash-strapped universities across the country are digging deeply to bolster mental health services for millennials.

The University of Pittsburgh, which will add six counselors at its Oakland campus in the summer, is among the universities responding to what they say is a growing demand for mental health counseling on campuses.

Carnegie Mellon University President Subra Suresh issued a statement saying the university will expand hours and access at its student counseling center and is reviewing campus culture in the aftermath of two student suicides last month.

Counseling center directors on the front lines at universities large and small say many factors contributed to the need for more counselors, including who attends college and the baggage they bring, as well as changing attitudes toward counseling.

It's an expanding demand nationwide that recently led Ohio State University to add 15 counseling positions and the University of California to add 85 across its 15-campus network.

New issues

"We're seeing more complicated students. There are better pharmaceutical supports today, and as a result, we're seeing students coming in with a behavioral health history," said Terri Bassi-Clark, director of counseling, disability and health services at Seton Hill University in Greensburg.

Micky Sharma, president of the Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors and director of counseling services at Ohio State, echoed Bassi-Clark's comments.

"As higher education has become an option for more people in our society, there are people who would not have considered college an option in the past. We see students with (autism) spectrum disorders, Asperger's. It's not that these things didn't exist in the 1980s. They did exist, but not on college campuses," Sharma said.

Many millennials, battered by rising tuition, increasing student debt and a changing economy that offers few career guarantees, are feeling the effects of those concerns.

Recent studies have shown depression, once the most common complaint among students, has taken a back seat to anxiety, Sharma said.

Most colleges and universities fund their clinics through student fees, so cash isn't a barrier to seeking help.

Ed Michaels, director of Pitt's counseling center, said data drove the decision to increase staffing by 41 percent at his school. After reviewing national benchmarks, Pitt officials found they were handling nearly twice as many counseling sessions as centers at similar-sized institutions.

Michaels, who took over at Pitt last summer, said the number of students seeking help and the nature of their problems are factors. …

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