Western’s Counseling Center has seen an 18.5 percent increase in unique clients, and new mental health referrals from the Student Health Center have tripled since the 2010-2011 school year, but staffing levels remained the same, according to Western’s State Operating Budget Request.
Efforts have been made by the university to serve more students by implementing a “brief and focused” model of individual counseling, which offers more group sessions and a reliance on a greater use of therapists in the community.
Other universities are experiencing similar scenarios. According to the Wall Street Journal, Ohio State has seen a 43 percent increase in the past five years in number of students seeking treatment at the school's counseling center, and the University of Michigan’s demand for counseling services has risen by 36 percent over the past seven years.
“The biggest stress for college freshmen is being thrown into this new atmosphere, and now we don't have mom and dad to help guide us, or help us make decisions,” junior resident advisor Jake Curtis said.
“It is becoming more recognized that mental health is a serious issue on college campuses and there should be some sort of formal training for prevention”
At Western, resident advisors are responsible for educating freshmen about all the resources on campus students can go to for help. These include tutoring centers in the library, clubs and counseling centers.
“We are trained to be the best resource possible for them and to be that plug to connect them with proper campus resources, so hopefully the stress doesn't become overwhelming,” Curtis said.
There is a confidentiality agreement between what freshmen tell residential advisors, as long as no one's safety is in danger, and Curtis said he isn’t surprised anxiety levels in college students are on the rise.
“We assume this high value in college... we think our entire future is based off of what we do right now... and that’s makes the anxiety and stress that much more,” Curtis said. When midterms, dead week and finals week roll around, stress levels “sky rocket,” Curtis said.
Ian Vincent, the men’s resiliency specialist at the Western's Counseling Center, is part of the Building Resilience and Voicing Empathy, or BRAVE, program on campus. The program is focused on suicide prevention and strengthening the campus community.
“It teaches you skills that you might need to have a conversation with a friend you're concerned about and how to refer them to resources on campus,” Vincent said. “It is becoming more recognized that mental health is a serious issue on college campuses and there should be some sort of formal training for prevention”
Vincent blames increased anxiety levels on the fact college has gotten more competitive over the years, and on the difficulty of managing the stresses of school, relationships, finances and student debt.
The goal the program strives for is furthering the destruction of stigmas around mental health.
During the first week of November, Western’s Counseling Center will put on a Healthy Minds Fair offering activities to improve stress-coping skills — including massage therapists and relaxation stations.
In 2015, Western was one of seven schools awarded the “Active Minds Healthy Campus Award.” The achievement recognizes U.S. universities that provide access to quality healthcare and an extensive approach to promoting and protecting student health.