More college students seeking mental health services as school year begins

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INDIANAPOLIS — Universities in Indiana are seeing a record-breaking number of college students seek mental health services as the pandemic continues.

“Our traditional college-aged students, 18-22, do think nothing will hurt them, but that’s not the case right now,” said Julie Lash, director of counseling and psychological services at IUPUI. “Last week was our first week of classes, and I think we hit record highs for numbers of students reaching out to us.”

Lash says in 2020, 35 students contacted the counseling center during the first week of classes. This year, that number is 84.

“We’re seeing people who are both burned out because we’ve been dealing with this for so long and then the folks who are having worries because of the changes and uncertainty of what comes next,” Lash said.

“We are off to a really fast start here at Butler,” said Keith Magnus, director of counseling at Butler University.

Magnus says they’ve hired two additional counselors to keep up with the increasing demand.

“Compared to last year during the pandemic, it’s probably about a little higher than when the pandemic was in full swing and in lockdown,” Magnus said.

The Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement — an annual survey sent to college students across the country — found 53% felt an increase in loneliness, anxiety and depression due to the pandemic.

“You had 30% saying their loneliness has increased substantially. Difficulty sleeping, a quarter of them,” said James Cole, project manager for the Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement.

“We know with the isolation around the pandemic, people have lost interpersonal connectedness,” Lash said. “Even before the pandemic, college students were dealing with loneliness.”

“This is a really critical age for mental health,” Magnus said.

College counseling centers offer group programming and one-on-one sessions to help students during the transition to college.

To learn more about the mental health services provided at Butler, click here.

For information on IUPUI services, click here.

If you feel in danger of harming yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline free of charge 24-7 at 1-800-273-TALK.

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