U-M study: More programs needed to aid students with mental illnesses
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—With improved treatment and enhanced legal rights of individuals with disabilities, colleges and universities are likely to have increasing numbers of students with mental illnesses enrolled, according to University of Michigan researchers.
Across the nation, higher education institutions need to offer more programs of assistance and support to students with mental illnesses, said Carol Mowbray, a U-M School of Social Work professor.
"Not having adequate services and supports may create more burdens on students with mental illnesses if they have to encounter challenges on their own, or in facing stigma or discrimination and decreasing their likelihood of success," said Mowbray, who co-authored "Supported Education Programming for Adults with Psychiatric Disabilities: Results from a National Survey."
The other authors are Mark Holter, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, and Deborah Megivern, a social work assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis. The authors studied 103 college programs nationwide and categorized them according to the services they provide. The national survey research was published in a recent issue of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal.
In previous years, individuals who experienced psychiatric disorders such as major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia were usually disenfranchised from higher education, Mowbray said.
Techniques and technology for early identification and treatment of mental illness have been improving. In the near future, there are likely to be significant advances in knowing how to help students with serious mental illness and therefore, even larger numbers will be able to pursue college educations, Mowbray said.
"There seems to be little possibility of educational institutions being able to avoid the necessity of addressing the needs of these students," she said.
Colleges and universities should coordinate their efforts with local mental health programs to improve services, Mowbray said.
To date, there is no single best model for collaboration between academic institutions and mental health programs, she said. However, there is emerging knowledge of how to better address and serve the needs of students with psychiatric disabilities and that knowledge can be used to build successful models that are responsive to the specific needs of local schools and communities, she said.
As high school seniors begin to narrow their choices for college, individuals requiring mental health services should investigate the quality and accessibility of counseling programs available at or in proximity to the college they plan to attend, Mowbray said.
Contact: Jared Wadley