Worries over the increasing prevalence of mental health problems among college students are happening everywhere, and NDSU is no different. College is often the most intense part of a life-long career journey. Balancing being a full-time student, possible part-time work, and other extra-curricular activities, all while learning to live on your own and make new friends can be mentally draining.
Universities have increasingly recognized this problem and improved their support and resources for students. Public Health Week is a small way the NDSU community is combating the issue. Concluding this year’s Public Health Week was a roundtable discussion of mental health with keynote speaker Bill Burns, director of the NDSU Counseling Center.
In his presentation, he highlighted the statistics of the problem. Anxiety, depression, and stress are the three top concerns for students using the service. According to Burns, compared to the national average, NDSU students face slightly more anxiety, 72% vs. 61% nationally, and depression, 51% vs. 44% nationally. Stress is slightly lower, 39% vs. 47% nationally.
On average, for every 10,000 college students, roughly the size of NDSU, there will be one suicide each year. However, this figure has remained more stable compared to suicidal thoughts, which have risen sharply. Burns has a possible explanation for this disparity: these thoughts are increasingly being used as a coping mechanism to deal with the hardship, not as a serious consideration. However, he emphasized that all should still be taken completely seriously.
NDSU students using the counseling services find them to be very helpful. 60% report that it helped keep them enrolled, while another 29% never thought about leaving. Academic skills improved for 70%, with 18% not needing this type of assistance.
The overall number of students using the service has remained relatively consistent, but the number of attended sessions has increased. Interestingly, if students were to evaluate the counseling as a class, most said it should be considered a full three credits.
He also described the many services of the counseling center. Most importantly, all counseling is free to all students from the very first day to the last. They have many services that go beyond one-on-one therapy.
There are group counseling sessions for areas such as graduate students, chronic illnesses, and new students. There is couples counseling. Only one partner needs to be an NDSU student. Art In Therapy is a way for students to destress while making art and talking to each other.
There is also the NDSU care team. If there is someone was a concerning degree of worsening mental health, a peer can fill out a form for a care team to do a wellness check on them.
All of these services and more will be returning next fall to the newly renovated counseling center in Ceres Hall.