Local colleges and universities are taking steps to meet the mental health needs of students and staff after two years in a pandemic.
Higher education institutions nationwide report the need is critical.
In December, halfway through the first academic year when most colleges returned to in-person instruction, the U.S. surgeon general issued an advisory on the country’s youth mental health crisis.
It found everything from sadness to suicide plans increased by more than 40% in the decade before COVID-19 — and that the pandemic’s further impact was “devastating.”
Counselors are seeing distress become more widespread and more severe — particularly anxiety, which overtook stress and depression among students, according to the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors.
More than a year ago, Oakland University waived the nominal copay for students seeking assistance at its campus counseling center, said spokesman Brian Bierley.
“We at the Oakland University Counseling Center understand and recognize the multitude of emotions (e.g., anxiety, fear, grief, anger, etc.) students, faculty, and staff may be experiencing during the ongoing pandemic and social unrest,” the counseling center said in a statement on the university’s website.
“In efforts to best support you, our staff are continuing to offer remote clinical services through phone and video conferencing,” the statement said.
In the past, Oakland University students got six free sessions and then were charged $12 per session, the statement said.
The counseling center provides therapy with licensed psychologists on a short-term basis. The center offers referrals to those requiring long-term assistance.
Oakland Community College also reports increased need for mental health services, said Beverly Tinsley-Stanbrough, dean of college readiness.
The college provides career counseling on its five campuses, but since it does not offer mental health assistance, it refers students who are in need of it.
The college also helps students experiencing transportation or food insecurity through referrals, she said.
All of these efforts were in place for several years, but were stepped up because of the pandemic, she said.
“Students may have experienced isolation. There were so many unknowns. They’re worried about circumstances in their family brought on by the pandemic. A lot of students found online learning very stressful,” she said.
Because online instruction requires independent learning and time management skills, OCC requires a basic course on how to best use virtual classes, she said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.