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One in three college freshmen suffer from mental health disorders

A new study published by the American Psychological Association has revealed that more than one-third of college freshmen suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. The investigation involved first-year university students in eight industrialized countries worldwide.

Dr. Randy P. Auerbach of Columbia University is the study’s lead author.

“While effective care is important, the number of students who need treatment for these disorders far exceeds the resources of most counseling centers, resulting in a substantial unmet need for mental health treatment among college students,” said Dr. Auerbach. “Considering that students are a key population for determining the economic success of a country, colleges must take a greater urgency in addressing this issue.”

The research team analyzed data from the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health International College Student Initiative, which involved nearly 14,000 students from 19 colleges in eight countries. The participants reported on symptoms associated with common mental disorders, including major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

Overall, 35 percent of the respondents suffered from symptoms that were consistent with at least one mental health disorder. The most common ailment was found to be major depressive disorder, followed by generalized anxiety disorder.

“The finding that one-third of students from multiple countries screened positive for at least one of six mental health disorders represents a key global mental health issue,” said Dr. Auerbach.

According to previous research, only 15 to 20 percent of students will address their issues with local psychologists or at their school counseling center. For those who will not seek out help in person, Dr. Auerbach recommends Internet resources, such as online cognitive behavioral therapy.

“University systems are currently working at capacity and counseling centers tend to be cyclical, with students ramping up service use toward the middle of the semester, which often creates a bottleneck,” said Dr. Auerbach. “Internet-based clinical tools may be helpful in providing treatment to students who are less inclined to pursue services on campus or are waiting to be seen.”

The study is published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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