Mental Crisis?

The entrance to CAPS at UMW
-Charlotte Rodina

College students are lining up at psychological clinics on campuses across the country. The trend is unmistakable. Here at the University of Mary Washington, 12 percent of students are seeking help for mental-health issues, slightly above the 1-in-10 at colleges nationally.

They’re showing up for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, relationship problems. Sometimes, it’s for contemplating suicide.

Fully 44 percent of college counseling-center clients have severe psychological problems today, a sharp increase from 16 percent in 2000, according to a new national survey by the American Psychological Association. Its report is called “The State of Mental Health on College Campuses: A Growing Crisis.”

“Over the past several years, there has been a rise just because that’s a national trend everywhere. Each year we see an increase of students seeking counseling services, ” said Dr. Nicole Surething, director and psychologist of UMW’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

In 2008, the International Association of Counseling Services reported that 95 percent of counseling services directors recorded an increase in the number of students seeking help for mental health problems. The study surveyed counselors from a sampling of different schools in various states in the U.S.

In the same year, another study was conducted by the National College Health Association. It reported that depression diagnoses for students had increased from 10 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2008.

These reports  not necessarily mean that mental health is on the rise, a statistic that cannot be calculated. Dr. Surething argues that students are using psychological services more because there is less of a stigma for seeking help. As psychologists learn more about mental health, they are better able to properly diagnose specific mental illnesses, giving more students reason to make us of mental health facilities. Additionally, more and more student are entering college are already on medications and in therapy.

This site takes a look at what professionals and students have to say about mental health on college campuses.


  • See how UMW’s counseling and psychological services operates in CAPS About section and take a Virtual Tour inside its offices.
  • The most common mental illnesses at colleges in the U.S. appear in Disorders.
  • Read the personal stories of students who have dealt with mental disorders in Student Profiles.
  • How does the UMW community view mental illness? Watch firsthand accounts in Perceptions.
  • Find links to services, studies, self-help tests and more in Resources.