Is There a Mental Health Crisis on Current College Campuses? A Look into New Trends

Over the decades, the population of young adults who enter college has been growing steadily.

At the same time, the number of college-age students who report mental health issues and the use of therapy have also been on the rise. In a 2017 study published in the journal “Psychological Services,” researchers have labeled the recent trend a “crisis.” They write: “The current state of college mental health is frequently labeled a ‘crisis,’ as the demand for services and severity of symptomology have appeared to increase in recent decades.”

Indeed, some of the data remain curious. As the researchers note: “Clinical data collected over 5 academic years (2010 – 2015) showed small but significantly increasing trends for self-reported distress in generalized anxiety, depression, social anxiety, family distress, and academic distress, with the largest effect sizes observed for generalized anxiety, depression, and social anxiety.”

One positive trend, however, that the researchers identified was a decreased use of substances among college students.

Several factors have been converging to create the increase of mental health problems in college student populations. Based on the research, 66% of high school students will enroll in postsecondary education, and “nearly 20 million students are in a position to seek mental health services while attending college or a university.”

Some of the specific mental health problems identified by the researchers include:

  • Depression
  • Interpersonal Relationships
  • Greif/coping with loss
  • Stress/Anxiety
  • Family Issues
  • Sexual Assault

In sum, college students are indeed at an increasing risk for a variety of mental health problems that range from depression to hysteria and evidenced-based interventions such as psychotherapy may remain useful for them.

And, of course, if you or someone you know is at risk for one or more of the mental health problems listed above, please seek assistance from a licensed professional. Most colleges have an on campus mental health clinic, or students may seek an

an off-campus provider.

As this trend continues to remain persist, it is important for students, administrators, and mental health professionals become as informed as possible to address the problem. “Just as it is important to be able to quantify what is meant by the national ‘crisis’ in regards to collegiate mental health,” the authors of the aforementioned study write, “it is also worthwhile to understand how the current state of presenting concerns and treatment utilization are reflected in individual counseling centers.”

Finally, that said, mental health on college campuses remains an important factor for student success, and with increasing rates of several mental health disorders, it remains important that students have access to the care they need and are not stigmatized in seeking treatment.


Xiao, H., et al. (2017). Are We in Crisis? National Mental Health and Treatment Trends in College Counseling Centers. Psychological Services, 14(4), 407 – 415.

Brooke Lamberti

Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.

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