UNC System mental health experts assessed university services. Here’s what they found.

The Old Well on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus is without its usual spring-time visitors on the evening of April 1, 2020. University campuses across North Carolina had closed that March to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
·2 min read

Students in the UNC System are showing a “significant increase in the incidence of mental health challenges,” which accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A team of mental health professionals and university leaders assessed universities’ mental health services and made several recommendations to improve campus resources. Their report “Healthy Minds, Strong Universities: Charting a Course to More Sustainable Student Mental Health Care” was presented to the Board of Governors in May.

The report explained the escalating demand for student mental health services, strained capacity at college counseling centers and higher stakes as student mental illness is one of the most cited reasons that students drop out of college.

Nationwide, about 20% to 30% of incoming college students come to campus with a mental health diagnosis, according to the report.

Students are increasingly reporting suicidal ideation, with 10% to 15% of college students saying they have had serious thoughts of suicide within the 12 months prior to the report being published, the report says.

And there’s been a rise in traumatic life events that students are coping with, including the death of family members, abuse and sexual assault.

The team found that campuses provide a variety of clinical and outreach services, but the “growth in the breadth and depth of student mental health needs are increasingly beyond the scope of what current mental health staff, funding streams and operational structures can provide.”

Mental health services are primarily funded through student fees, but that doesn’t cover the cost. And relying on money from the General Fund makes mental health centers financially fragile, the report says.

The authors of the report provided eight recommendations.

To improve service

Increase investment in quality and coordination of student mental health care within and between institutions;.

Invest in tools that enable better measurement of service delivery and outcomes so that campuses can make informed care decisions.

Increase crisis intervention support and mental health education among various campus stakeholders.

Invest in professional development and retention efforts of mental health professionals.

To improve financial sustainability

Expand insurance recovery in ways and for purposes with demonstrated return on investment.

Utilize federal coronavirus relief funds for non-recurring mental health service expenses.

Pursue additional philanthropic funds to support student mental health services.

Develop alternative service delivery models for specialized mental health services.

UNC System President Peter Hans and UNC System Office staff plan to work with the UNC System Board of Governors, campus leadership, mental health professionals, faculty, staff and students to address these issues “in the months and years to come,” the report said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting