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Association News
College MH Problems Get Overdue Attention
Psychiatric News
Volume 41 Number 20 page 12-12

As students headed back to college this fall, APA renewed its focus on helping to prevent mental illness among college students and educating the public about the importance of prevention and treatment of mental health problems in students. Common problems include eating disorders, depression, and alcohol abuse.

As part of its second annual public-awareness campaign regarding college mental health issues, APA has added to its<www.healthyminds.org> Web site information on alcohol abuse among college students, including statistics and a new fact sheet.

Among those troubling statistics, according to the Web site, is that 1,700 students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including car accidents. In addition, approximately 18 percent of U.S. college students questioned in a recent study had an alcohol-abuse problem, compared with 15 percent of their peers who are not attending college.

The College Mental Health portion of the Web site also includes information on eating disorders, depression, and tips on maintaining good mental health during times of disaster.

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"More and more, we're seeing students with serious psychopathology on college campuses," Rachel Glick, M.D., told Psychiatric News. Glick is co-chair of the APA Presidential Task Force on Mental Health on College Campuses and associate chair for clinical and administrative affairs and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School.

"I believe it is vital that psychiatrists weigh in and help to provide mental health care to students," she emphasized.

On a segment of the HealthyMinds site titled "APA Expert Opinion," Glick answers questions about eating disorders, depression, and excessive drinking.

She pointed out that the general public may take too benign a view of drinking on college campuses, refusing to consider it as problematic or to identify excessive drinking by students as a mental health problem.

However, she noted that many young people who abuse alcohol are self-medicating due to symptoms of an underlying mental health problem such as depression or anxiety, further highlighting the need for psychiatric involvement in addressing these mental health concerns on campus.

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APA launched its first public awareness campaign on college mental health in fall 2005.

According to an APA position statement issued that year on college mental health issues, an increasing number of students in recent years begin their college experience already taking psychiatric medications, "and most colleges report increases in medications being prescribed" by staff at college counseling centers. With this situation in mind, APA recommended that in an effort to improve mental health among college students, colleges and universities increase efforts to encourage students to make use of psychiatric services. The APA statement also urged college administrators to ensure that psychiatrists have "significant participation" in assessment of and treatment planning for students receiving mental health services on campus and offer students insurance coverage for mental health care.

Glick suggested that psychiatrists can get involved at the local level by offering to serve as consultants on local college campuses or by joining APA's College Mental Health list serve.

Past APA President michelle Riba, M.D., who convened the Presidential Task Force on Mental Health on College Campuses in January 2005, told Psychiatric News that she has been pleased to see her efforts to improve the mental health of college students continue with her successors, Steven Sharfstein, M.D., and Pedro Ruiz, M.D.

"Psychiatrists play a vital role in college mental health," she noted. "There are a number of psychiatrists who have been working in this area, and it was great to be able to find an effective and collaborative voice for them."

More information on APA's 2006 Campaign on College Mental Health is posted on the Web at<www.healthyminds.org>. APA members can join APA's list serve on college mental health by sending an e-mail request to kids@psych.org.

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