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Just the Facts! 10 Concerning Mental Health Stats About College Students


  1. 85% of surveyed college students said they felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do at some point in the last year.  53.4% of college students surveyed reported feeling that things were hopeless, and 39.1% reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function during the past 12 months.
  2. Between 2007 and 2017, drug-related deaths increased by 108% among adults ages 18 to 34, while alcohol-related deaths increased by 69% and suicides increased by 35%. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death on college campuses.
  3. Within the last 12 months, students reported the following factors affecting their individual academic performance (received a lower grade on an exam, or an important project; received a lower grade in the course; received an incomplete or dropped the course; or experienced a significant disruption in thesis, dissertation, research, or practicum work:

    Stress - 34.1%
    Anxiety - 27.4%
    Depression - 18.2% 

  4. Anxiety, depression and stress were the primary student concerns who visited college counseling centers during the 2017-2018 academic year as reported by clinicians. 
  5. Nearly 73% of students with a mental health condition experienced a health crisis on campus, but over 34% reported their college didn’t know about it. 
  6. 50% of students who stopped attending college because of mental health-related reasons did not access mental health services and supports on campus
  7. Up to 33% of student veterans suffer from "invisible wounds" of war: traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, or major depression.
  8. 1 in 5 students face a mental health condition. 
  9. 25% of female college students binge and purge to manage their weight
  10. Up to 35% of college students engage in self-injury.  

College counseling and health centers are reporting record levels of mental health-related concerns, ranging from a full spectrum of anxiety disorders and depression to self-injurious behaviors and suicide.  The Penn State Center for Collegiate Mental Health reported an average 30-40% increase in students’ use of counseling centers between 2009 and 2015 at a time when enrollment grew by approximately 5%. While institutions have directed resources to support the increased need, 50% of students who stopped attending college because of mental health-related reasons did not access mental health services and supports on campus. 

The Conversation:  W.E.A.R. And CARE
The overwhelming statistics document how important it is to increase mental health awareness on campus.  Counseling Centers are well prepared to support students; but if students do not seek care it is impossible to support the growing diverse set of needs.  All college employees who regularly interact with students should be aware of signs of distress and how to respond.  Preparing all employees to  W.E.A.R. and Care will assist in helping distressed students seek professional support.

Watch – It’s true the vast majority of higher educational professionals are not trained to diagnose and provide treatment for any mental health issue.  But employees can easily recognize signs of stress by being aware of changes in behavior, attitudes and/or hygiene. 

Engage - Acknowledge to the student what you have observed, that you are sincerely concerned for them, and that you are willing to help them explore options to get back in a good space. Any private method of communication that feels comfortable to you is appropriate. 

Ask –Of course, we want to leave diagnosis and treatment to the appropriate professionals on campus. If you are unsure how to respond, ask one of the professional staff at your institution’s Counseling or Health Services for appropriate approaches you can utilize with the student.

Refer –Once you have chatted with the student, consider a referral for assistance. Be honest and kind while letting the student know that you believe seeking help from a professional counselor will help with their situation. Don't force the issue if the student is not receptive - simply restate your concerns and recommendations.  Follow your institution’s procedures for referrals and concerns related to distressed students.


Do any of these stats surprise you? Is your campus experiencing an increase in students seeking mental health treatment? What strategies are being utilized by your campus to meet the high demand?

Author: Geri Anderson
July 17, 2019

Comments 2
  • Sadguna Anasuri
    Sadguna Anasuri

    Thank you for sharing the compilation of facts and possible interventions. Yes. An important topic and often much neglected and overshadowed by academics, enrollments, and sports. If faculty, administrators and all students are educated on the topics and can look out for symptoms and discuss, the taboos surrounding mental health can be lowered and eventually removed. Once identified, remedial measures need to be taken up and individuals can be helped appropriately. No one should suffer from any kind of mental health issue/disorder – that should be the ultimate goal.

  • Aaron W. Hughey
    Aaron W. Hughey

    I think this is an increasingly important topic/issue that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. I have been teaching in higher education for over 30 years and I think the situation has gotten somewhat more dire during that time. I’ve had a student commit suicide during this time and I’ve worked with many others who were depressed, had anxiety issues, or other emotional/mental challenges. I have made a number of referrals to the Counseling Center and most have gotten the help they need to continue their education/careers/lives. I think all faculty and staff need to have the ability to 1) recognize basic symptomology, 2) make an effective referral, and 3) consult with mental health professionals. Thank you for your efforts to shed some much needed light on this epidemic (which is what it is).

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