Editorial | Valuable services for the quarter of students with mental illnesses
Published: Friday, October 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013 02:10
Miami University Counseling Services says about 27 percent of the Miami student population reports having been diagnosed with a “mental disorder”. To put that in perspective, that’s almost equal to the amount of out-of-state students that attend Miami (30 percent).
The Editorial Board of The Miami Student is surprised by this statistic.
Mental disorders are serious and the fact that nearly one in four students at Miami has actually been diagnosed with a mental disorder is an issue we can’t help but talk about.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) claims about 26.2 percent of adult Americans (18 or older) suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. That is about one in four adult Americans. So we see Miami, compared to the national average, seems to be relatively typical; that is, on track with current U.S. statistics.
The NAMI defines mental illnesses as “medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.” These mental illnesses can range from eating disorders to ADD, personality disorders to OCD or Tourette’s syndrome to depression.
A 2010 survey sponsored by the American College Counseling Association (ACCA) reports that 24 percent of counseled students are on psychiatric medication, which is up from 17 percent in 2000 and nine percent in 1994. The study also reports, “85 percent of [counseling] directors believe that there is an increase in the number of students coming to campus who are already on psychiatric medication.”
In the past decade or so, there has been this notion that the U.S. is an over-medicated society, especially among adolescents. Home remedies and over-the-counter medicine seem to be deemed inadequate as parents are medicating themselves and their children with much stronger prescription drugs. For example, USA Today reports nearly 1 in 10 U.S. children between the ages of five and 17 were diagnosed with ADHD between 2007 and 2009. After a fifteen-minute interview, a young person walks out with a prescription to Ridilin. And a couple sleepless nights result in a bottle of Ambien, Ativan or Xanax.
Prescription drugs have long-term effects. Anti-depressants, for example, slow the brain’s activity and “diminish heartbeat and respiration to dangerously low levels,” AbovetheInfluence.com said. Though ignoring a serious mental illness can be just as dangerous. This makes the debate over prescription drugs a hard battle to win.
Back in early September, we reviewed the launch of Miami’s Suicide Awareness and Prevention Project and the unveiling of the “Just in Case” suicide prevention app. A response to our editorial piece that week provided more detail behind the purpose of the app. The author of the letter said, “Deciding when to seek help is not always easy; the information provided in the “I can’t cope” tab is intended to assist students with thinking through that decision. The app also includes various numbers to encourage users to contact trained professionals for help and simplifies that process.”
We are happy to report that this app has received over 1,000 downloads since its release earlier this year.
Aside from the Just in Case app, there are a handful of other resources for students that feel like they can’t cope with certain psychological distresses. For instance, the Counseling Center offers a “Stress and Anxiety Management Workshop” (SAM-W) on most Mondays and Thursdays throughout the semester up until Finals Week, as well as “Pet Therapy” and individual or group counseling.
According to the Student Counseling Services’ (SCS) website, we currently have eight SCS Personnel who are all highly trained individuals, with either a Ph.D, M.D. or Psy.D. Miami’s SCS also employs two supporting staff and hosts 10 trainees for the 2013-2014 school year. Total, there are 20 counselors available for students at Miami’s Student Health Services, and at no added cost.
With 20 counselors and 15,000 students, that makes a 750 to 1 student to counselor ratio at Miami. The national average student to counselor ratio is 1,800 to 1, according to the 2010 ACCA study.