1 in 3 college freshmen faces mental health problems

THURSDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2018 (HealthDay News) – More than one in three first year college students worldwide struggle with a mental health disorder, suggests new research.

"The number of students who need treatment for these disorders far outweighs the resources of most counseling centers, resulting in a substantial need unfulfilled," said study author Randy Auerbach, of Columbia University from New York.

"Universities need to be more urgent in addressing this problem," he said in a press release from the American Psychological Association.

In the study, researchers analyzed data collected from about 14,000 students from 19 colleges in eight countries: Australia, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Spain, and the United States.

Students answered questions designed to assess their mental health and identify common ailments, such as major depression, anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

The study, published on September 13th in Journal of Annormal Psychology, showed that 35% of first-year university students exhibited consistent symptoms with at least one mental health problem.

Major depressive disorder was the most common condition among students, but many were also affected by generalized anxiety disorder.

"The discovery that one-third of students from multiple countries tested positive for at least one of the six mental disorders represents a key problem for global mental health," said Auerbach.

At the beginning of this week, another study revealed a similar and worrying trend. Among the more than 67,000 US students surveyed in this study, over 20% said they had experienced stressful events in the last year that were strongly associated with mental health problems, including harming, suicidal thoughts, or trying suicide.

But according to the Auerbach team, previous research has found that only 15% -20% of university students seek help from the school's counseling center, which may already be in difficulty to meet the growing demand for services. So the study authors suggest that students go online to seek help, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

"University systems are currently working at full speed and counseling centers tend to be cyclical, with students increasing service usage in the middle of the semester, which often creates a bottleneck," Auerbach explained. .

"Internet-based clinical tools can be helpful in providing care for students who are less inclined to perform services on campus or who are waiting to be seen," he said.

The study authors added that further research is needed to identify which forms of treatment work best for specific disorders.

"Our long-term goal is to develop predictive models to determine which students will respond to different types of interventions," said Auerbach.

More information

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has more on how to manage mental illness in college.

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, press release, September 13, 2018

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