The pandemic has exacerbated the mental health crisis on college campuses across the country, and expanded education programs as well as new views on mental health needs are needed to tackle the problem, a study published Thursday morning showed.
A New York State Mental Health Association study was conducted nearly two years after the COVID-19 pandemic turned college experiences for millions of students nationwide and found growing demand for mental health services on campus.
“The mental health crisis on college campuses has long been a widespread problem and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Glenn Liebman, the group’s CEO. “Our research clearly shows that more needs to be done at the state level to address this growing problem, which affects both public and private colleges and universities. We urge New York State to take action and begin to develop public policies to provide the support and resources our college students need. We are grateful to the state legislators who have already expressed a desire to address this issue and cooperate with us. “
Even before the pandemic, mental health was considered a problem for college and higher education campuses. The level of depression increased from 24.8% to 29.9% between 2009 and 2017. Over the same period, the proportion of students diagnosed with mental health increased from 21.9% to 35.5%, the study found.
And the level of suicidal thoughts rose from 5.8% to 10.8% over that period.
College campuses closed during the initial outbreak of COVID-19, and some colleges have attempted to return to personal learning only to send students and faculty back to remote locations when infection rates increase.
The document, published by the group, calls for a number of public policy measures, some of which need state support. One of the bills, backed by Senator Anna Kaplan, is designed to strengthen mental health programs in state colleges and universities.
Mental health education programs should be expanded for college students, faculty, and staff, as well as leave protocols to meet mental health needs, the paper said.
“College learning experience should be an opportunity for academic pursuit and personal growth, not a heavy burden on young people’s mental health” said John Richter, director of the Public Policy Group and lead author of the White Paper. “We have worked hard at the primary and secondary levels to provide resources and take into account the fullness of health, and we hope to continue our efforts as young people enter the next stage of their lives. We look forward to working with lawmakers, students and other higher education stakeholders to determine the right path for New York to address this very real crisis. ”