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Proposal: Dream Burnout: The Student Mental Health Crisis

Mental health cases in college students have reached astronomical levels in the last few decades. More and more students are facing problems that affect not only their sociological well being, but also the physical and social drain that comes with it. It causes students afflicted with these disorders to become less involved in social activities, as well as have decreased performance in school activities. This could lead to several dangerous outcomes that could affect the well-being of students, including their social and professional relationships, overall morale, thoughts of dropping out, and if serious enough, thoughts of suicide and death.

The Issue

Problem Defined

The current crisis in which I am trying to address is the abundant increase of mental health cases among college students, which has reached astronomical levels in the last decade, and what is being done to help those who need it. Even though there has been notions to help understand the problem more and provide those with these conditions the treatment they need, colleges and universities still are lagging behind because of budget, time, and staff constraints. The purpose of this proposal is to shed light on what mental health is and how it affects students, what can be done to help those students, and how it is all achievable.

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Mental health cases at colleges and universities are rising MORE

In the last few decades, mental mental health issues for college students have been increasing drastically. Some shocking statistics are:

  • 61% of people seeking out services at counseling center were inquiring about anxiety. Other concerns include depression (49%), stress (45%), family issues (31%), academic performance (28%) and relationship problems (27%).
  • 64% of students stopped attending college due to mental health related reasons. The primary diagnoses of these students are depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mental health disorders are affecting students' workMORE

Mental health issues are seriously affecting the work of college students. In a 2016 survey of students by the American College Health Association, 53% reported feeling that things were hopeless and 39% reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function during the past 12 months. 

In the image below, it states information collected by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Student counseling services are way over capacity MORE

In a survey given to counseling center directors of colleges and universities, the mean student-to-counseling-staff ratio at colleges and universities was 1,737:1. Smaller institutions had smaller ratios, on average (705:1 at schools smaller than 1,500 students), while larger institutions had larger ratios (2,624:1 at schools with more than 35,000 students). 

Institutions are struggling to keep up with the growing problem. One staff member shouldn't be induced to taking care of the well being of almost half, or even all, of the entire student population at any college. Below shows the certain things that counselor directors observed in students.

Students emphasized the critical need for the following services and supports to be available on campus:

  • Mental health training for faculty, staff and students
  • Suicide prevention programs
  • Peer-run, student mental health organization
  • Mental health information during campus tours, orientation, health classes and other campus-wide events
  • Walk-in student health centers, 24-hour crisis hotlines, ongoing individual counseling services, screening and evaluation services and comprehensive referrals to off-campus services and supports

Below shows the certain things that counselor directors observed in students.

Even though counseling centers are over capacity, students aren't seeking out help MORE

Even though colleges and universities have counseling services, some students are not accessing the services provided. Listed below are some startling statistics that really express the problem.

Of the students surveyed:

  • 72% experienced a mental health crisis on campus. Yet 34% reported that their college did not know about their crisis.
  • 57% did not access accommodations through college disability resource centers, often citing that they were unaware such services and supports existed or did not know how to access them. 
  • 40% did not access mental health services and supports at their school.
  • 36% cited stigma as a barrier to accessing their college’s mental health services and supports, making it the number one reason students don’t access treatment.
  • Only 25% of students with a mental health problem seek help.
Go deeper

Allegany College of Maryland is a two-year public community college located in Cumberland, Maryland. It was previously known as Allegany Community College.

Diane McMahon
Associate Professor of Sociology - Allegany College of Maryland
I am a sociology professor at Allegany College of Maryland, which is located in Cumberland, MD. I also work as the Faculty Director of the Service Learning and Civic Engagement (SLCE) Center at the college. I have worked in a variety of professions in my past that focuses on helping the homeless. Most recently I was the director of a peace and justice organization in Pittsburgh.

I am a great supporter of the work of TheChisel.com because it helps raise up topics that students and community members can work on together, in a bi-partisan manner, to address.
David Whitaker
- Art Education Major - Allegany College of Maryland
Hello, my name is David Whitaker. I am currently attending Allegany College of Maryland for my first degree in Education. I'm currently studying to become a professor in Art. I have lived in Western Maryland for my entire life and have loved studying art for my entire life. I also love exploring the wonders of the internet.

The Solution

Proposed Actions
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Treatments are available for those in need! refer students to on-site, or off-site institutionsMORE

Most colleges and universities already have set in place programs and services that already help those in need, but studies have shown that they are operating way over their capacity and threatening the effectiveness of the services. If more money resources were used to help better these programs then we could see a decline in crisis before it gets way to out of hand. Another resource that students might not know they are there is the off-campus solutions offered by physicians, doctors, and hospitals. Sending students if their mental disorder is drastic enough will help the student control or even overcome their mental disorder and set them on a path of healing.

Get students the help they NEED! Spread awareness through campaigns about how to get helpMORE

If students are finding difficulty finding help, or aren't sure that their school offers services to help, colleges and universities should try and put out more publicity and add campaigns to their students to try and show that they have those services. This can help display that the institution is trying to share a positive message to show that they want their students to succeed, and to show students that they have the proper clarifications to get the help they need.

Let them know their not alone! Set up organizations and clubs to help with their social interactionsMORE

A great way to help students get over their mental disease is to allow for outside activities. Extra-curricular activities that are run by the students themselves, or even concerned Professors can help students thrive and teach them to try and get outside of their shell. It could help students to better cope and help them build better relationships. 

Expected Results
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Student social/academic performance and moreal should increase, causing them to gain back confidenceMORE

With the addition of better services, introduction of organizations and clubs, and ad campaigns, the performance of students could increase. Showing students different opportunities they can explore can lead to several different avenues that are opened for the students involved. they can learn to handle their disorders and not let it define them.

College dropout rates could decrease and graduation rates could increaseMORE

Since students would see that colleges and universities are learning to better understand them, it could lead to more students staying in school instead of leaving to get better. Also with students deciding to stay on board, institutions could see an increase in the graduation rates gradually over time.

Students and professionals will gain a better and more meaningful way to cope with these disordersMORE

Since institutions are taking an interest in helping, it would help build a meaningful relationship with the students, causing medical professionals and therapists to seek out better treatment options for their patients.

Colleges would demonstrate concern for and address more students' overall well-beingMORE

With increased attention on their student populations, colleges and universities could also see a direct correlation in the amount of applicants applying for their school.


Currently, the foundations of a program or service to help students in need is in place but suffers from budget constraints. Counseling services that are located on-campus are a crucial way that will help students help with their afflictions. My plan is to ensure that there is enough money for these services to thrive. When applying for a college, there are certain fees that are included so that a college can provide public services.

Give students the accessibility to help support these services, and colleges and universities to be able to have the necessary funds to make improvements or to hire more staff. For example, a student population of 5,000 who pays a fee of $50 a semester would raise about $250,000 a semester to help the program. They could use this money to hire more staff or upgrade the center. Of course, there would should be limitations to this so that bigger institutions won’t take advantage of their students.

The Conversation

a year ago
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