Rising Rates of College Mental Health Services Utilization

New research from a large study shows steep rise in services use from 2007-2017.

From Psychology Today
By B. Janet Hibbs, Ph.D. & Anthony Rostain M.D., Posted Jan 13, 2019

The first two decades of the 21st century have witnessed a steady rise in rates of mental health problems among college-aged youth. Scientific publications, popular press and social media accounts have documented what many view as an epidemic of anxietydepression, suicide and substance use disorders in this age group. Annual surveys of college administrators, counseling center directors, and student health directors document a dramatic increase in the demand for mental health services by college students, often to the point of straining available resources. Yet much of this information is drawn from clinical samples, and population-based studies have been very scant. The authors of this study are principal investigators of the Health Minds Study (HMS), a large on-line Web-based survey that annually polls college and university students on mental health, service usage and related factors. This report analyzes survey responses over the decade 2007-2017 of 155,026 students from 196 U.S. campuses.

The headlines from their results include the following:

  • Rates of depression increased from 24.8% in 2009 to 29.9% in 2017.
  • Rates of suicidal ideation went up from 5.8% in 2007 to 10.8% in 2017.
  • Rates of past-year treatment increased from 18.7% in 2007 to 33.8% in 2017.
  • The proportion of students with a diagnosed mental health condition increased from 21.9% in 2007 to 35.5% in 2017.
  • Among students with depression, rates of past-year treatment went from 42.5% in 2009 to 53.3% in 2017.
  • Personal stigma regarding receiving mental health treatment declined from 8.2% to 5.1% over the decade of the study.

There is both bad news and good news in these numbers.

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