One of the unique features of the university setting is that it often doubles as educational institution and place of employment for students as well as staff. Like workplaces all over North America, providing mental health care is a major challenge. According to statistics from Mental Health America, one in four adults live with mental illness. And yet colleges are just now waking up to the pressing need for services on campus, according to a recent series in USA Today.
There are a number of reasons for the significant increase in the need for mental health services. For one thing, thanks to better treatments and therapies young adults living with mental illness are now able to attend college, something that was unobtainable a generation ago. But old stigmas die hard, and college students can be reluctant to get help if it means that their parents might find out. And for those willing to reach out, there are often too few services and those services are poorly conceived for this complex population. Sadly, many times little or improvement is made until a campus is turned upside down by tragedy.
Another issue is how to fund mental health programs on campuses. Charging students for services can be a deterrent to seeking help when issues are being kept from parents. There are grants in some states, but these may not be enough to increase services to needed levels.
All of this is why I’m working with Mental Health America and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Our need for psychologically healthy, safe and fair workplaces can and must extend to higher education.
Andrew Faas is the author of From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire
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