An increasing number of college students are arriving on campus with psychological issues or developing problems once they’re in school, psychologist Sharon
Kirkland-Gordon, PhD, told participants at APA’s 2013
Education Leadership Conference.
And college counseling centers are evolving to meet
those changing needs, said Kirkland-Gordon, who directs
the University of Maryland’s Counseling Center. Counseling
centers got their start in the mid-1940s, with faculty advising
students with academic problems, she said. The movement
took off after World War II, with centers providing educational
and vocational counseling to the influx of veterans arriving on
campus. Centers then added personal counseling to the services
offered and began to see increasingly complex cases.
“The good news? Students are coming in, they’re bringing
Mental health issues
other students in and faculty and staff are walking students over
to the center,” said Kirkland-Gordon. “The bad news? It’s hard to
keep up with the numbers of students coming in.” The result is
long waiting lists and referrals to community providers, she said.
Several best practices could help solve the problem, said
Kirkland-Gordon. Because more students are arriving at
college already on medications, mental health prevention and
intervention efforts need to start in high school, for example. She
also recommended that centers hire more staff to handle increased
demand, train faculty and staff how to recognize students in
distress and what to do, enlist student groups to help with social
media campaigns, create wellness and coping programs and
establish medical leave policies that include mental health.
Some students are more vulnerable than others, such as
veterans, active duty military members and members of the
National Guard and reserves, said psychologist Paula Domenici,
PhD. Domenici directs civilian training programs at the Center
for Deployment Psychology, which was established through
advocacy efforts by APA’s Education Directorate.
in college on the rise
APA is working with the White House to help address the problem.