There were 765 respondents in the survey, all from individuals diagnosed with a mental health condition who are currently or were enrolled in college within the past five years. Of the respondents who participated in the survey, 64 percent are no longer enrolled in college.
For some, the stigma associated with mental illnesses keeps them from seeking the help on campus that may allow them to suitably deal with their issues and stay in college, said Christopher Scott, associate clinical director of the UH Counseling and Psychological Services.
“There is evidence that some students are reluctant to seek help for mental health concerns. This often varies depending on the students cultural background or gender,” Scott said. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that students are increasingly willing to seek assistance with mental health needs.”
The survey shows women are more comfortable coming forward and asking for help, a notion Scott said is standard.
“At CAPS, about 60 percent of our clients are female. This is pretty similar to other counseling centers across the nation,” Scott said. “There are cultural norms that differ regarding how men and women seek help.”
Many students are afraid to come forward because of academic and financial repercussions, said Dana Markey, a program manager at NAMI.
In the survey, students said receiving certain accommodations like lower course loads and help communicating their needs to professors may have helped them remain in school. They also said connecting with mental health providers earlier and having peer-run support groups available would have positive effects.
“Sometimes they may need to take a leave of absence, reduce their course load or switch to part time student status – but for some students these actions had negative consequences on their academic careers,” Markey said.
Schools and students need to be more proactive about noticing signs of a mental health problem, like a sudden drop in grades, increased absences and social isolation, Markey said. Schools can connect students to its services by promoting what it provides and by publicizing the importance of mental health to the entire campus.
CAPS does outreach and tries to make clinical services as accessible as it possibly can, Scott said. It conducts screenings, including its Let’s Talk walk-in consultation services. CAPS now offers same-day initial consultation appointments to students with urgent concerns.
Still, some students slip through the cracks or choose not to seek help, Scott said.
“We try to provide emotional support and a space where the students can engage in effective problem-solving regarding their academic options for a student who presents an academic crisis,” Scott said.
“We often intervene by discussing options such as how to negotiate deadlines and ask for help from professors and in some cases, options regarding withdrawing from classes or the University.”