The supply and demand of support in the mental health of university students

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More and more university students are in need of mental health services and institutions cannot meet the demand.

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In a study by North Carolina State University and Pennsylvania State University, 165 academic articles and news about mental health in universities were analyzed to discover their similarities and help institutions to improve.

The analysis grouped six main themes by which students are seeking help into two categories: factors that drive mental health problems (age, race, crime, victim) and circumstances that describe what happens after those experiences (student services, consequences).

Coupled with this, two issues were dominant in all sources: the growing demand for mental health services and the increased risks faced by racial and ethnic minorities.

Between 2015 and 2017 there was a 60% increase in students seeking support, as well as an increase of 62.9% in the requested appointments. The service provided by the schools only increased 29.6%.

Universities focus on academic preparation without taking into account that emotional adaptation correlates with success. This focal point mainly affects new students experiencing an increase in stress due to the school transition, so they rely on their friends, family or, in the worst case, on substances. Students without support networks are the most vulnerable to falling for drugs, especially if the university does not have the resources to help them.

The study also demonstrated between race and mental health experiences; Minority groups are the ones that have more problems when entering the university. Black students tend to feel less emotionally prepared, which causes them more adapting issues to academic, social and cultural aspects.

Sadly, minority students are most in need of help but less seek or receive less effective support than majority students, especially in predominantly white institutions.

The universities, in the study, recognize that they are not prepared to adequately support the students, but they are working on it. For example, community colleges look for local partners or are creating links with local care providers to outsource the demand for the better mental health of the students.

Other institutions use mobile phone applications or telephone therapy to approach students in need, follow up or provide self-assessment tools. This technology will allow universities to identify areas of opportunity in care services. These mobile applications are used more frequently by African-Americans and Hispanics.

The applications also can evaluate symptoms, offer psychoeducation, a location of resources and follow up treatment; which allows patients and experts to assess the treatment, mood, stress, and anxiety.

In the long term, this type of effort will allow institutions to reduce the growing demand for services and to support their students to have a better university experience.