Mental health is a serious concern for all college students. Students today are under immense pressure to succeed, make friends, have a job, volunteer and do service work, and so many other things. This increased pressure has resulted in decreased mental health. ActiveMinds, a nonprofit which advocates for issues regarding student mental health, states that 39% of college students have experienced a significant mental health issue, and that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. These issues are compounded by specific STEM fields like Animal Science, and Biology where the vast majority of students are seeking to enter very competitive and rigorous post-graduation programs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 67% of veterinary students have had periods of depression. Of which 37% had a period of depression lasting over 2 weeks.
While scrolling through Inside Higher Ed, a website that discusses issues within higher education, I found an article titled, Defunding Student Mental Health.
In the article it talks about how 2 year community colleges are defunding mental health programs due to high costs and under funding. This bothers me due to the high number of transfers that enter Animal Science programs from community colleges and 2 year schools. I am a graduate teaching assistant for the Intro to Animal and Poultry Science lab for first year students and a very large proportion of my students are transfers from 2 year or other 4 year colleges and universities. Not only do these students tend to have a harder time adjusting than regular freshman do, they also tend to have less time to check all of the boxes for graduation than a typical freshman student. This all combines into a serious mental health concern that will only be compounded if community colleges begin a large scale defunding of mental health services. It is imperative that these students have strong mental health habits so that they are prepared to handle the stress and pressure that comes with being a transfer student.
This article also struck a cord with me due to the general poor state of mental health services at colleges and universities. These programs are generally underfunded and understaffed, and are not adequate to solve the mental health needs of students today. For example, recently a friend of mine was experiencing a episode of depression. They went to Cook Counselling Center to make an appointment to see a Counselor and were turned away because they were not having suicidal thoughts. My friend does not have personal medical insurance, and therefore cannot afford to see an outside specialist. Needless to say, the were left helpless during this episode and had no options to speak to someone about their depression. While this is an isolated incident, it does shed light on the state of mental health services, even here at Virginia Tech.
I am discouraged by the current defunding of mental health services at community colleges and hope that this is not a trend that will extend into major universities. Students today are under more pressure than ever to succeed, and these services are vital for their success and well-being while in college.
Inside Higher Ed. (October 18, 2019) https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/10/18/mental-health-low-priority-community-colleges
Active Minds. (2019).
American Veterinary Medical Association (May, 2016) https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/160501c.aspx