Most schools are unprepared to respond to young people's mental health needs, and it could hold dire consequences for students' futures
“Many counseling centers are really understaffed,” says John Dunkle, senior clinical director of higher education at The Jed Foundation , a nonprofit aimed at suicide prevention among young adults.
Now we are actively treating severe and persistent mental illness—in some cases, with the presence of pretty debilitating symptoms,” says Jonathan Mitchell, assistant director for clinical services at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s Wellness Center.
Cecilia McGough, founder of Students With Psychosis When fully staffed, a college provides an average of 199 clinical hours per week, according to the 2021 Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) annual report , which included data from 661 institutions.
Although Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., has a student population of over 25,000, upperclassman Amber tells Fortune she didn’t experience an initial delay when she reached out to the campus counseling center in October 2021, when she was dealing with extreme anxiety and panic attacks.
“The current interventions that colleges are investing in are not targeting those barriers,” says Sarah Lipson, an assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health and a principal investigator for the Healthy Minds Network .
Now in her late twenties and a public mental health advocate, McGough recalls one incident in which she’d returned to her dorm after suffering an episode to discover her roommates and the RA had called the police.
The officers proceeded to pat McGough down, threatened to handcuff her, and eventually escorted her to a police car parked in front of a dining hall to take her to an inpatient psych stay.
She had to take multiple mental health leaves while completing her undergraduate degree following her diagnosis and would not have been able to do so if not for a “powerhouse” academic adviser who advocated for McGough to stay in her dorm because she couldn’t return home.