College students face an enormous amount of academic stress and personal challenges. And these pressures can often leave them feeling overwhelmed and susceptible to conditions such as anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five students will suffer from a mental health condition while attending college.

In fact, mental health conditions among all young adults are very common, as 75% of mental health issues originate by the age of 24. For college students, the challenges that come with untreated mental illness can lead to a suffering academic performance, putting their professional and personal futures in jeopardy.

Mental Health Among College Students by Katy Tripses

Data from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health

As with the general population, more students are engaging in conversations surrounding mental illness and even seeking help.

mental illness among college students

Data from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health

But with more students exploring resources for their mental wellness needs, where does that leave universities, who are often under tight budgets and limited resources? Indeed, a steadily rising national enrollment rate in universities does mean colleges are left trying to squeeze more out of already tight resources.

We surveyed 4-year public university student health centers about whether or not they feel they have the resources necessary to help students in need. Of those we spoke with, 55% reported that they don’t have all of the resources necessary to support student wellness needs. The majority of those pointed to a lack of funding while many also expressed a need for more counselors.

Capacity at Universities to Support Student Mental Wellness Needs by Katy Tripses


While most 4-year public universities do have a student health center that offers mental wellness support, much of what they’re able to offer students is limited.

“In general, universities have the capacity to handle crisis type cases, though they do often refer out the ongoing maintenance of conditions to local community practitioners”, according to Timothy Jaconette, formerly with the Stanford University Undergraduate Admission Office and now Founder of Advanced Admit College Admission Consulting.

What Are Universities Doing to Better Support Student Mental Wellness Needs?

Despite being strapped for resources, most universities have worked diligently and taken active steps in offering greater mental wellness support for students. Here are a few examples of things many colleges are doing.

Making Available Resources Known to Students

The first step in increasing the help students receive is to let them know what help is available to them. Many universities have set up campaigns and hired outreach specialists to let students know the resources available on campus, including free counseling sessions. And many are working to make seeking out help less intimidating.

For instance, most of the universities we spoke with allow students to make an appointment in a variety of ways, including over the phone, online, or even in person.

college mental health appointment

Additionally, these universities are working to make mental wellness appointments a top priority by eliminating long wait times. Of the schools we spoke with, 27% said that most students are able to get a same-day appointment, ensuring they can get the help they need as soon as possible.

how to make a university health appointment

Providing Access to a Healthy Environment

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been shown to have a positive impact on overall mental wellness. And universities are certainly taking note of this. For instance, 90% of the universities we spoke with offer access to a gym at no additional cost to students. Many schools are even offering free nutrition programs to better educate students on the importance of a balanced diet. Finally, many colleges are encouraging students to abandon their ways of all-night study crams in favor of more regular sleep schedules.

Keeping Students Engaged

Perhaps one of the most effective efforts universities are making is to keep students directly involved with conversations surrounding mental wellness through student support groups. These student-run organizations engage in peer-counseling sessions, creating a more open and trusted environment.

For instance, the University of Michigan encourages student involvement through its CAPS Student Advisory Board and CAPS In Action organizations. Not only do these groups help to provide resources to fellow students but they also help advise the university itself on how to best provide support to students in need.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is home to Stigma Free Carolina, a campaign to end the negative stigma often associated with mental wellness and to encourage more conversation surrounding the issues. The campaign is directly supported by several on-campus offices and organizations, including the student-run club Rethink Psychiatric Illness.

Finally, national organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness is working to promote NAMI on Campus, student-run mental health clubs that educate student bodies on the importance of mental wellness, inform classmates on resources available to them, and advocate for improved services for students.

College can be a stressful experience, and those who become overwhelmed by the pressure can be at risk for mental illness issues. Though universities are working diligently to provide support for students, there is still a long way to go. For more information regarding the warning signs of mental illness and available resources for college students, check out NAMI’s support guidebook here.


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