According to an Associated Press review, The Ohio State University saw a 69% increase in students seeking mental health treatment in the last five years.
The school isn’t alone: More than three dozen other public universities saw similar spikes.
“I think there’s a few factors that have played into that,” says Dr. Micky Sharma, director of Counseling and Consultation Services at Ohio State. “One is there’s a reduction in mental health stigma. Seeing a counselor, seeing a therapist is something that students are much more open to in past years.”
Sharma says the university is also receiving more students who have sought mental health treatment before coming to college. And he doesn’t discount the stressors that modern students face.
“We just live in a faster-paced society,” he says. “It leads to students being busier, running more hectic lives and not as often developing as much resiliency and coping as we’d like to see.”
Sharma says that has made anxiety the top presenting concern since 2010, with depression coming in second.
After two students died falling from the same parking garage in the spring of 2018, Ohio State created a Mental Health Task Force to assess best practices, and added two counselors to its staff. The university kicked off an 18-month implementation phase in October of last year
Still, students claim there are not enough resources available to meet demand.
Sharma says that while one-on-one counseling from his office is a critical part of encouraging mental wellness for college students, there has to be a campus-wide effort. He uses the phrase “culture of care.”
“It does not mean that every faculty and staff member needs to become a therapist," Sharma says. "But it means every member of our community can sit with a student who’s in distress and know what the resources are around our campuses and refer them to those resources.”
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.