"An early diagnosis and treatment is not always helpful," said Quigley. "They are at a point in their lives where they need to develop the skills they need to cope with an autonomous situation. We're admitting students who wouldn't have come before." They would not have been ready or equipped to handle the responsibilities of college.
Students taking medications that enable them to attend college often crumble when their support system is removed.
"Mom's not there to make sure they take their medicine. They aren't seeing a counselor three times a week. When that student crashes and burns, it's dramatic," said WELLWVU Director Al Kasprowicz.
Most college campuses are increasing mental-health resources available to students. At UC, students may sign up for free counseling services through the Student Life program.
When a coach, professor or fellow student notices warning signs such as personality and or appetite changes, chronic fatigue or an increase in rash behavior, they need to encourage them to get help. Students are more likely to seek help when they realize it's completely confidential. No one, not faculty, dormitory staff members, coaches or students, will ever be told by the mental-health group which students are receiving counseling, Stevens said.
"We need to communicate to students that there is no shame in getting help," Stevens said.
At WVU, student health service employees maintain a high profile at freshmen orientation to let students know help is available and to get the message out through postings on campus and electronic communication, but students still tend to wait too long before they ask for help. They often self-medicate with alcohol or engage in risky sexual behavior, eventually leading to academic failure.
WVU recently combined physical- and mental-health units into the WELLWVU program and announced the impending construction of wellness facility and new recreational fields next to the student recreation center on the Evansdale campus. "We're trying to work with students more holistically, and not just offer mental services," she said.
Each month, WELLWVU focuses on different wellness issues such as exercise, healthy eating, responsible alcohol consumption and sexual behavior and sleeping habits.
Incoming freshmen are required to take an online alcohol awareness test and pass a subsequent exam on the issues. Alcohol is prohibited in the dorms. "We're really taking it seriously. Alcohol is too available here," Yura said.
Not an anomaly
The rising percentage of students seeking help for mental-health issues and taking medication as treatment reflects a trend in the general population. Data recently released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate a 400 percent increase in antidepressant use since 1988.
Parents can better prepare students for the college experience by encouraging them at an early age to assume responsibility, both for their decisions and actions, and also for their own health care. Students whose parents talk openly about mental-health issues and the value of using student health resources are more likely to seek help should trouble arise, Yura said.
Mental-health issues on college campuses are increasing, but health professionals have ramped up efforts and programs provide resources to help students get back on track. Students just have to ask for help.
The first step really is recognizing that they have a problem.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.