BY LYNDON HAVILAND, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR
This Thanksgiving, #college #students across the nation are taking a temporary break from classes to celebrate at home with family and friends. Yet for #students struggling with thoughts of #suicide and other serious #mentalhealthissues, some may be told not to return to campus.
Colleges across #America have largely dropped their #COVID-19 restrictions, yet the pressures facing #students today remain extraordinarily high. The #AmericanPsychologicalAssociation has labeled it a “crisis,” and estimates that over 60 percent of #college #students are currently dealing with one or more #mentalhealthproblems.
Congress has done little to provide funding to understand the #stresses and challenges #students are confronting. And many universities aren’t providing #students the support they need to be healthy and resilient.
#James Donaldson notes:
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
Order your copy of James Donaldson’s latest book,
From The Verge of Suicide to a Life of Purpose and Joy
In 2019, #students attending high-achieving #schools across the country were added to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) list of “at-risk” groups. The reason: Pressure to compete at top academic levels resulted in higher statistics of #behavioral and #mentalhealthissues. Others on NASEM’s at-risk list included #children living in poverty, foster care and those with incarcerated #parents.
That was before the #pandemic. Since then #students have endured severe challenges, including #socialisolation and remote learning, which have disrupted their social and academic development. Campus life for #college #students may appear, on the surface, to be back-to-normal but for many, the lingering effects of #COVID-19 are still very raw, and very real.
Statistics published by the #University of Michigan rank #suicide as the second-leading cause of death for #college #students nationwide. Approximately 1,100 #suicides occur on #college campuses every year. Nearly 40 percent of the university’s own #students have either “thought about or considered” it. Such figures put increased pressure — and higher expectations — on #universities to address the #mentalhealthcare needs of their #students.
#Schools know this is a problem. Six consecutive surveys by the #American Council on #Education dating back to the start of the #pandemic found #student #mentalhealth was a “pressing issue.” Last year, over 70 percent of #university presidents cited it as their most important concern.
Yet some of the nation’s most elite #universities appear to be failing #students who need #mentalhealthservices. A recent expose by The Washington Post found suicidal #students at Yale University “are pressured to withdraw.” And those seeking readmittance must reapply and waive their right to privacy by demonstrating that, at their own cost, they’ve received proper #mentalhealth care during their time away as a condition of being allowed back to campus.
The problem isn’t specific to Yale. Prior to the #pandemic, the Ruderman Family Foundation found issues at a number of Ivy League #universities regarding forced leaves-of-absence policies for #students suffering from #mentalillness. Everyone received a grade of D+ or lower.
These policies betray the #students who seek care. Such policies prioritize legal protection over #student well-being. Instead of expanding services and prioritizing #mentalhealth, some #schools are compounding the problem by forcing #students who come forward to leave their walls.
This year Congress increased #youth #mentalhealthsupport but kept grant funding for higher education at a paltry $6.5 million. To bolster the strength of America’s young #adult population we need to destigmatize, and not penalize, care-seeking #behavior. We also need a greater commitment from our elected leaders to fund accessible and substantive programs to address #mentalhealthawareness and prevention.
And such support must extend beyond #university campuses. Young people everywhere endured #COVID-19 and many are in need of help — including those in #college and those for whom #college is not an option.
At a time when #student need for #college #mentalhealthservices is at an all-time high, #schools are lagging behind. #University presidents overwhelmingly agree #mentalhealth is the number one issue facing their campuses. They — and Congress — need to step up and do more to be part of the solution.
Lyndon Haviland, DrPH, MPH, is a distinguished scholar at the CUNY #School of Public Health and Health Policy.