Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Healthy Minds

In this issue of College Planning & Management you will find the results of our annual campus housing survey. In the survey, we asked not only about the residential facilities that exist or are being planned or built at colleges and universities across the country, but also for respondents’ thoughts and concerns about the students who occupy these facilities and attend classes at their schools.

A growing concern for the past several years has been student mental and emotional health. In response to the question, “What is the one issue that concerns you most right now, and why?” among the usual answers concerning costs, funding, deferred maintenance, and keeping beds filled, more and more often the answer is “student emotional fragility,” “student wellness,” “mental health issues,” “emotional/mental health/illness,” and “the greater mental health issues.”

According to the American Psychological Association’s webpage for Campus Mental Health, in a 2014 National Survey of college counseling centers, respondents reported that 52 percent of their clients had severe psychological problems, an increase from 44 percent in 2013. A majority of respondents noted increases over the past five years of anxiety disorders, crises requiring immediate response, psychiatric medication issues, and clinical depression. In a 2016 survey of students by the American College Health Association, 52.7 percent of students surveyed reported feeling that things were hopeless and 39.1 percent reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function during the past 12 months.

There is no single, simple answer to addressing student mental and behavioral health needs. There can be no argument that these needs must be met. Mental illness impacts not only those who suffer with it, but can also effect other students, roommates, instructors, coaches, and more. Without intervention, students experiencing a mental health issue are more likely to self-harm, receive lower GPAs, drop out of school, or be unemployed than their peers who do not have a mental health challenge.

Resources are available from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the American Psychological Association, the American College Health Association, and JED, among others, for starting points in developing methods to managing student mental and emotional illness.

As part of the mission to design, furnish, and maintain healthy campuses, the health of the students themselves must not be overlooked.

This article originally appeared in the College Planning & Management April 2018 issue of Spaces4Learning.