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AR Addresses Rising Demand for College Mental Health Services

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Friday, June 16, 2023   

In Arkansas and across the country, student mental health has been the focus of increased attention on campuses.

A recent report from the College Futures Foundation noted colleges and universities are directly affecting how their students feel and fare.

Buster Lackey, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Arkansas, said 2022 research showed 60% of college students experienced some type of mental health challenge. He added some schools are not doing enough to address the challenges, and as a result, some students are leaving without graduating.

"Between the 18- and 25-year-olds, they drop out of college because they're having a mental health problem, and they don't know what they're having, because we don't talk about it," Lackey observed. "What you've got is, you've got students dropping out, that are not being treated for their mental health problem. So now, what we've got is a high dropout rate or a nondegree completion rate."

Lackey pointed out his organization's "NAMI on Campus" program helps to tackle mental health issues and improve life for students. He noted one facet of the problem is a shortage of available licensed professional counselors and social workers, on and off campus.

Breeanne Carter, assistant director for marketing and communications for the Pat Walker Health Center at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, said their campuses offer students multiple resources and services to address mental health challenges. They include, but are not limited to, anxiety, depression and stress-related disorders.

"Pat Walker Health Centers Counseling and Psychological Services, also known as CAPS, offers critical mental health services, such as short-term individual counseling, group counseling, workshops, psychiatry services, [and] 24-hour mental health emergency services," Carter stated.

Carter added it is important for professors to recognize the warning signs of mental health challenges, so they can provide timely support and connect students with the appropriate resources. She listed a few of the signs:

"Essentially changes in sleeping patterns or consistently feeling tired. Possibility of, you know, difficulty in thinking clearly, concentrating or making decisions," Carter outlined. "If a student is engaging in impulsive, self-destructive or risky behavior; maybe if they are struggling to attend classes."

They also have a comfort space, called the Lane Marrs Relaxation Room, dedicated by the parents of a freshman who took her own life in 2016. The room was created in 2018 as a resource for students and the University of Arkansas community.


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