Inclusive Teaching, Teaching and Justice, Teaching Today's Students

College Student Mental Health: The New Normal

by Christina Tisher, Coordinator of Clinical Research, Graduate Student Wellness, and Disability Outreach,University Counseling Center 

Mental health challenges are real and tangible forces in the lives of college students today. According to a national survey of nearly 20,000 undergraduate students, the three most frequently reported factors that negatively impacted students’ academic success were anxiety (27.4%), sleep difficulties (22.1%), and depression (18.2%) (American College Health Association, 2018). The results from a 2019 annual online survey of Missouri undergraduates (n = 9,752) indicated within the past year, 57% of respondents had experienced anxiety, 31% had experienced major depression, and 28%, panic attacks (Partners in Prevention, 2019a). Of those respondents attending Saint Louis University (n = 388), 55% reported experiencing anxiety in the past year, 27% reported major depression, and 21% reported having panic attacks (Partners in Prevention, 2019b). The pervasive presence of mental health challenges in the lives of college students can be considered the new normal.

The University Counseling Center

Like other public and private universities in the United States, SLU is no stranger to this new normal. For the last several years, the University Counseling Center (UCC) has seen an annual increase in demand for services (Saint Louis University Counseling Center, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019a). In FY19, the UCC provided over 4,700 counseling appointments to SLU undergraduate and graduate students. During that time, anxiety and depression were the two most prominent issues students presented with, and these two issues accounted for over 70% of clinical diagnoses (Saint Louis University Counseling Center, 2019a).  As this 2019-20 academic year progresses, it is possible and even probable you as an instructor or student affairs educator will engage with a student in distress. This blog provides a few counseling-related points of interest that may be useful to your work with students.

Syllabus statement. If you are interested in including a counseling-related statement in your syllabus, a sample statement is provided below for your convenience.

University Counseling Center 

The University Counseling Center (UCC) offers free, short-term, solution-focused counseling to St. Louis University undergraduate and graduate students.  UCC counselors are highly trained clinicians who can assist with a variety of issues, such as adjustment to college life, troubling changes in mood, and chronic psychological conditions.  To make an appointment, call 314-977- 8255 (TALK), or visit the clinic on the second floor of Wuller Hall.

Importance of personal agency. When referring students to the UCC, it is useful to respect the importance of personal agency. Counseling is more effective when a student is motivated to seek help. If a student feels pressured to make an appointment only to appease another, they most likely will be less engaged in the process. Just as with learning, the more invested students are in the counseling process, the more likely they are to benefit from it. Personal agency begins with the student making his/her/their own appointment. Appointments are made in one of two ways:

  • By phone – students can call (314-977-8255) to make an appointment. It is fine if you are present when a student calls to make an appointment, but it is necessary that the student make the appointment.
  • In-person – students can visit the counseling center to make an appointment. The UCC is in Wuller Hall on the second floor.

Appointment wait time. At the UCC, we are conscientious and intentional about resource stewardship. One area in which this stewardship can be easily seen is in the wait time for appointments. The national average wait time for students to be seen for an initial, non-crisis appointment at a university counseling center is 7.9 business days (Association of University and College Counseling Directors, 2018). In spring 2019, the average wait time for SLU students to be seen for an initial, non-crisis appointment was 3.25 days (Saint Louis University Counseling Center, 2019b). Despite the SLU-mor, there is no wait list for appointments, nor has there been one for several years. 

For additional information: The purpose of this blog was to provide a few tangible counseling center-related points of interest that may be useful to your work with students. For more information please visit the University Counseling Center’s webpage at https://www.slu.edu/life-at-slu/university-counseling/index.php, or call the UCC (314-977-8255).  My direct line is 314-977-7258, and I would be happy to speak with you regarding any questions you may have.

References

American College Health Association. (2018). American college health association-national college health assessment II: Reference group undergraduate executive summary fall 2018. Retrieved from https://www.acha.org/documents/ncha/NCHA-II_Fall_2018_Undergraduate_Reference_Group_Executive_Summary.pdf.

Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors. (2018). Annual survey – public version. Retrieved from https://www.aucccd.org/assets/documents/Survey/2018%20AUCCCD%20Survey-Public-June%2012-FINAL.pdf.

Partners in Prevention. (2019a). Key findings from the 2019 Missouri assessment of college health behaviors. Retrieved from https://pip.missouri.edu/docs/briefs/PIP_8_01.pdf.

Partners in Prevention. (2019b). Missouri assessment of college health behaviors – campus data [data set]. Columbia: Brown & Ding.

Saint Louis University Counseling Center. (2014). University counseling center statistics for 2014 fiscal year. Saint Louis: Saint Louis University.

Saint Louis University Counseling Center. (2015). University counseling center statistics for 2015 fiscal year. Saint Louis: Saint Louis University.

Saint Louis University Counseling Center. (2016). University counseling center statistics for 2016 fiscal year. Saint Louis: Saint Louis University.

Saint Louis University Counseling Center. (2017). University counseling center statistics for 2017 fiscal year. Saint Louis: Saint Louis University.

Saint Louis University Counseling Center. (2018). University counseling center statistics for 2018 fiscal year. Saint Louis: Saint Louis University.

Saint Louis University Counseling Center. (2019a). University counseling center statistics for 2019 fiscal year. Saint Louis: Saint Louis University.

Saint Louis University Counseling Center. (2019b). University counseling center wait time statistics for spring 2019 [Data set]. Saint Louis: Saint Louis University.


christina_webChristina Tisher, Ph.D., currently serves as a mental health counselor and is the Coordinator for Clinical Research, Graduate Student Wellness, and Disability Outreach at the University Counseling Center at Saint Louis University.

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