As student mental health continues to worsen, college and university leaders seems to be increasing their focus—and spending—on mental health services, according to the results of a new survey from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, which represents student affairs professionals, and Uwill, a teletherapy platform aimed at college students.
Out of the 131 NASPA members who responded to the survey, 72 percent reported that the mental health of students, faculty and staff at their institution had worsened over the past year. (By contrast, 11 percent said it had improved, and 17 percent said it stayed the same.) But the majority of respondents also said that their institution was increasing efforts to address mental health; 77 percent reported that their campus had boosted its financial commitment to mental health services in the past year, and 71 percent said that more mental health resources became available to students over the past year.
Survey respondents largely believe their university’s leaders care about improving mental health on campus; 87 percent said their institution’s president or provost prioritizes mental health. When naming their institution’s greatest strength in addressing mental health, 28 percent cited support from senior leaders, 27 percent named students’ awareness of resources, 14 percent said their campus’s ability to meet demand, 13 percent cited funding for mental health services and 8 percent reported the size of the counseling center staff.
“What makes the findings of this research stand out is the focus on strengths of our systems. Mental health is too often looked at with only a lens of deficits, and now we have some examples of where campus efforts are strong to replicate and invest more in for successful services and better design,” said David M. Arnold, NASPA’s assistant vice president for health, safety and well-being initiatives, in the report.
Despite such efforts, very few respondents said their campus’s mental health needs are being met, with only 4 percent reporting that the “availability of mental health services for students is extremely strong.” Forty-three percent of respondents said that increased severity of psychological issues was the top mental health challenge, followed by inability to meet demand (20 percent), lack of funding (12 percent), current events and social issues (6 percent), students’ lack of awareness of resources (5 percent), and stigma around seeking mental health treatment (4 percent).