College-aged students are facing barriers to accessing mental health services

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - A new report from Mental Health America shows college students face barriers when trying to access services for mental health.

70 percent of students with mental health disabilities were not registered for accommodations, but only 20 percent said they did not want them, according to the report.

Funding for these services seems to be the biggest hurdle to get students the help they need locally.

“The key barrier here is that there’s so many students that want services, yet there’s not so many providers to provide those services, that’s where the rub is. That’s the problem,” Dr. Robin Hawks, Chair of the Advocacy Committee for Mental Health America of Augusta, said.

Dr. Hawks notes that students can easily access accommodations for their mental health at most of the colleges and universities here in the Valley.

Some examples are extended time on assignments and being able to do work from home.

However, Dr. Hawks says the problem is there is not enough providers for mental health services, like counseling, to meet the great need there is.

She says there is a significant number of college-aged students who are feeling depressed and anxious, and the pandemic has increased those numbers.

“They’re very social, and they need a lot of feedback from the environment during that developmental stage. They’re trying to build their careers, they’re trying to establish a network, and with the pandemic, all that was cut off for them,” Dr. Hawks explained.

Dr. Hawks is also a professor at Blue Ridge Community College. She says she’s had to get creative in the classroom to provide assistance to students.

“Giving students lots of flexibility in terms of attendance, in terms of being able to do some of their things online, and so forth, and that helps them to be able to deal with some of their mental health issues while they’re going to school,” Dr. Hawks said.

Dr. Hawks adds that more funding would be especially helpful at community colleges because they are not chartered to provide any mental health services. However, she notes that this funding deficit extends beyond the colleges to community services boards as well.

More funding could help develop providers and help the people who need these services.

James Madison University has a variety of mental health services, which can be found here.

Information for counseling services at Mary Baldwin University can be found here.

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